The NWT’s decision to effectively ration alcohol in liquor stores is a “victory for all people in the Northwest Territories,” said Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya on Thursday.
The territory’s finance minister, backtracking to a degree on statements made last week, implemented new regulations curbing the amount of alcohol anyone can buy in one day.
You can now only spend up to $200 per day in any given liquor store, and can’t buy more than six mickeys (375-ml bottles of spirits) per 24-hour period.
The Dene Nation had for weeks urged the territory to take similar action.
Yakeleya told reporters: “This is a victory that has demonstrated that when we put aside our differences and we work together for the good of all the North, we can take a step higher [as a people].”.
The next step, said the national chief, is finding ways to support people who depend mentally and physically on alcohol.
“We are now into the research and design models that we want to bring forward to the federal government, due to the fact that we cannot leave people in a mess when we ask them to get well by weaning off alcohol,” said Yakeleya.
“We would ask you to stay tuned as we continue to develop a unique approach to helping people, recognizing that some people will need a medical detoxification program.”
Yakeleya acknowledged any such program would have to work around restraints introduced by the NWT’s chief public health officer to slow the spread of Covid-19. He wants to examine working with Alberta’s Nechi Institute, an Indigenous training, research, and health promotion centre.
Yakeleya said some positives may yet come from the pandemic’s impact on the territory.
“Covid-19 would give a push for us to look at returning … alcohol and drug programs back to the North,” he said. “This gives a wonderful opportunity to have on-the-land treatment programs in the Dene way, using our Dene Elders and our Dene people – who have left alcohol and know what needs to be done to maintain their sobriety from alcoholism.”
Yakeleya hopes to present a plan to the territorial government before May.
“Today we hear the premier making an announcement on one of the points in our motion and that [took] two weeks,” said Yakeleya.
“So … maybe within two weeks we would have something that would be given to the government.”