The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) is joining other Indigenous groups across the Northwest Territories in asking the NWT government to restrict alcohol sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a news release on Monday, the corporation said restricting the amount of alcohol individuals can buy is “necessary for the safety of communities” and would help reduce the “common” issue of bootlegging. The corporation wants restrictions in place immediately.
“IRC strongly recommends that GNWT place restrictions on alcohol sales so residents can continue to make better choices, think clearly, and individuals and families are able to stay home safely,” IRC chair and chief executive Duane Smith was quoted as saying.
Smith said that would ensure “emergency funds intended to protect the most vulnerable [are] focused on their comfort, health, and continued safety.”
The news release claims some people are exploiting aid being given during the pandemic, like deferrals on public housing rent or increases to income support and Child Tax benefits.
The corporation says this is causing “additional threat to the communities at a time of uncertainty and pandemic illness.”
Other Indigenous organizations and leaders across the NWT have asked for greater liquor restrictions during the pandemic.
On April 3, the Dene Nation sent a motion to the territorial government requesting the restriction of liquor and cannabis sales. Chief Norman Yakeleya added he was seeking funds to help people manage alcohol withdrawal.
Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn has said he will lobby for liquor restrictions.
NWT may consider case-by-case solutions
Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek told Cabin Radio last week there’s no “one size fits all” solution for the territory but restrictions could be considered for individual communities and liquor stores. She said the conversation around concerns about bootlegging was ongoing.
The six liquor stores controlled by the NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission have been kept open during the pandemic but hours have been reduced and enhanced safety measures put in place.
Territorial health officials have said the benefits of keeping stores open outweigh the risks.
People who are dependent on alcohol could experience withdrawal or turn to consuming harmful products that contain alcohol. Officials have said this could place an added strain on the healthcare system.
Smith did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.