The charter community of Tsiigehtchic has voted in favour of lifting restrictions on the amount of alcohol that can be brought into the presently dry community.
The community voted in a plebiscite on Monday – with some voting in advance on January 7 – and selected from three choices: keeping the ban, allowing some alcohol in with restrictions, or lifting the ban entirely.
Of the 38 people who voted, 58 percent voted in favour of lifting all restrictions on liquor in the community.
The results were confirmed by returning officer Brian Smith, who is also the community’s economic development officer. Eighty-seven of the community’s 198 residents are registered voters, Smith said.
Currently, no alcohol may legally enter Tsiigehtchic. According to local leaders, this has created a bootlegging problem.
In November, the illegal sale of alcohol in the community prompted its council to issue a public notice urging people to report bootleggers to the RCMP.
“It’s time to ‘out’ the bootleggers to the RCMP and put [a] stop to the damage being done to our citizens,” the notice read. “The same goes for drug dealers.”
The devastation caused by the bootlegging was apparent, Chief Phillip Blake told Cabin Radio in the same month. “It leads to domestic violence, children taken away out of their homes,” he said.
Senior administrative officer Grant Scott said other effects, like public intoxication, were apparent, as was the consequent devastation of families. “Kids are left on their own too much and money is spent on alcohol and drugs, as opposed to food for the family,” Scott said.
The community has no permanent RCMP presence, relying instead on patrols from neighbouring Fort McPherson.
Of the remainining options in the plebiscite, 21 percent of those voting opted to keep the present ban. Another 21 percent voted to allow some alcohol into the community with restrictions.
Monday’s plebiscite follows another undertaken in 2018. That vote also returned a majority in favour of dropping all alcohol restrictions, but was not held in a manner that allowed it to be considered an official plebiscite, Scott said.
The outcome of the plebiscite does not immediately lift restrictions. The result is now sent to the NWT Liquor Licensing Board and consequent changes must be approved by the territory’s finance minister.