Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nunavut’s Liquor Restriction Systems, Bootlegging and Substance Abuse

The Liquor Act (Nunavut) provides Nunavummiut with a ranked liquor restriction structure based on four systems, ranging from general access alcohol to total exclusion. 

Communities choose their system by local plebiscite 

These systems are:  
1. An unrestricted system in which the community is subject only to the general liquor laws of Nunavut;
2. A restricted quantities system in which, in addition to the general liquor laws, the quantity of liquor that a person may purchase is limited;
3. A committee system, in which a locally elected alcohol education committee decides:
who may consume, possess, purchase or transport liquor in the settlement, municipality or area,
who may import liquor into the settlement, municipality or area under this Act,
the amount of liquor that a person may possess, purchase, transport or import in the settlement, municipality or area,
who may apply for a wine permit in the settlement, municipality or area and the amount of wine that a person may apply to make, and
who may brew beer for personal or family consumption in the settlement, municipality or area and the amount of beer that a person may brew; and 
4. A prohibition system, which prohibits the consumption, possession, purchase, sale or transport of liquor within the settlement, municipality or area.

Persons selling liquor unlawfully in breach of the relevant system are subject to fines of up to $25,000 (and not less than $5,000) and one year in jail for the first offence and $50,000 (and not less than $10,000) and up to two years in jail for subsequent offences. 

These offences are very serious. Writing in 2013 the Senior Justice of the Nunavut Court of Justice wrote:

"[75]  The offence of unlawfully keeping liquor for sale is an extremely serious offence. This offence, along with the offence of bootlegging, attracts the most serious penalties known to territorial law. Substance abuse is tearing Nunavut's families and communities apart. Much of Nunavut's violent crime is alcohol related. Much of this crime is driven by bootleg alcohol. 
Candidly these prohibitions have not stopped bootleggers who are common in Nunavut.  Even in dry communities it is possible to buy alcohol albeit for markups that a staggering - I have seen situations where a large bottle of vodka is sold by a bootlegger for $600. Especially in a place with significant poverty and hunger issues such grossly excessive amounts for alcohol are appalling. 

1 comment:

Nat said...

It's an uncomfortable reality.
My cousin worked in a small town on the north shore of Baffin Island for awhile. His mother would send him care packages, mostly tea bags and books (he doesn't drink, smoke, or overindulge in anything). Because of the delivery procedures in the town, some locals got wind of the care packages, and started calling on him at all hours of the night, thinking he had "illicit products" to sell. It made for a funny but unfortunate story...