Bootleggers are an old NWT problem. Covid-19 is a new worry.
Indigenous leaders across the NWT are imploring bootleggers to stop, worried they may bring Covid-19 into small communities alongside drugs and alcohol.
Speaking in a video from her home in Inuvik, Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan said she had spoken with Elders, members, and regional leaders who share the same concern.
“I’ve been getting reports that in some communities, bootleggers are not only hiking up their prices, they’re doing home delivery,” she said.
“It’s bad enough some of our families are struggling to make ends meet – and then now, during a crisis, you’re going to take advantage of that and make more money? It’s just beyond me.
“There’s a lot of irresponsible drinking going on, a lot of partying still going on. And our Elders are very worried,” Greenland-Morgan continued. She explained Elders are concerned that people not practising physical distancing will pick up the virus and bring it home to their families.
“As bootleggers, you’re not only breaking the law, you’re contributing to ongoing social issues in your community,” said Greenland-Morgan.
“You know that you’re contributing to dysfunction, to broken homes, broken marriages, [and] the abuses that go on, whether they be physical, emotional, sexual abuse, domestic violence, the list goes on.”
She hopes her people and nation will come out of the pandemic stronger.
“We can use this time to really do healing amongst ourselves, our families, and our overall community,” she said.
“Even those of you who are on the wrong path, we’re here for you, we can help you, we can help get you the right help you need … I can’t change you, but I can help you. And that’s what I’d like to do.”
Meanwhile, the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation (LKDFN) on March 26 warned suspected dealers in the community to stop their illegal activities.
The First Nation has set up its own Covid-19 response team.
In addition to self-isolating and physical distancing, LKDFN told residents to stop non-essential travel out of the community for the duration of the pandemic. There are to be no gatherings.
“Any community members not complying with this order [to self-isolate, physical distance, and stop non-essential travel out of the community] will have their snow machine seized by the LKDFN Covid-19 response team and confiscated by LKDFN chief and council until such a time as they determine,” read a letter to the community.
Any community members who are not a part of the First Nation and who are not following the order will be banned from the community.
Chief Darryl Marlowe could not be reached for comment.