Nunavut’s Cambridge Bay bans alcohol imports for 2 weeks, citing COVID-19 concerns

Greenland has already instituted a alcohol ban in some communities.

By Jane George, Nunatsiaq News - April 2, 2020
Cambridge Bay’s municipal leaders have introduced a two-week ban on importing alcohol to help encourage household safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Jane George / Nunatsiaq News)

Cambridge Bay’s municipal leaders have introduced a two-week ban on importing alcohol to the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ban came into effect on 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31.

Councillors passed the resolution on March 23, exercising their authority under Section 51.01 of the Liquor Act.

This section says a municipality can declare a special prohibition related to a special occasion, with a maximum length of 14 days per prohibition.

In this case, the “special occasion” is the territory’s state of emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly all the calls to the local RCMP detachment are linked to alcohol, Mayor Pamela Gross said in a letter about the ban, which was sent to residents on Tuesday evening.

The usual practice is to arrest and jail intoxicated people who are causing trouble, Gross said.

But she said “these are temporary measures and do not resolve the underlying factors.”

As was the case in Greenland, where a ban on alcohol sales is now in place in three communities, the alcohol prohibition in Cambridge Bay is intended to improve safety in homes, which are often overcrowded.

“These occupants range from babies to children, youth, adults and seniors. With the current Nunavut Emergency Measures in place, with workplaces closing and the growing need for self-isolation and social distancing, the daily number of people in each residence at any given time has increased significantly,” she said, urging people to maintain social distancing and self-isolation to prevent the potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

There’s nowhere else to drink other than at home: earlier in March, the Ikaluktutiak Elks Lodge closed down.

Cambridge Bay was among the first communities in Nunavut to ask visitors to stay away and instead meet by teleconference or videoconference.

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station has said it is acting to reduce the COVID-19 risk by closing access to the public and taking preventive measures focused on protecting its employees and Cambridge Bay residents.

Cambridge Bay has also formed a COVID-19 Emergency Planning Group to discuss and exchange information about the global pandemic.

This group includes members of Nunavut’s Department of Health, hamlet councillors and administrators, the RCMP, school principals, and staff from the Emergency Management Organization, Polar Knowledge Canada and the Ovayok Broadcasting Society.

And a Facebook page has been created called “Cambridge Bay Volunteers during COVID-19″ to match up residents with others needing help.

To keep everyone occupied while they sit out the pandemic at home, the municipal government has also organized trivia contests, crossword puzzles and a social-distancing bingo event last Saturday, which will be repeated this weekend.

As well, Gross offers live updates in English and Inuinnaqtun on the Cambridge Bay’s Facebook page.

So far, Nunavut has no confirmed COVID-19 cases.