The standard case from those in favour of the beer and wine store in Rankin Inlet, or any similar measures that offer substances where no open and legal option was available before, is that individuals’ choices for what they consume is up to them and prohibition is not the answer.
That’s the libertarian-esque perspective we grew up with in Vancouver and still very much permeates that city’s view on substances of all kinds. The idea is that people who are addicted will get their fix somehow, so why not provide it in the safest manner possible – and, especially in the case of alcohol, this is a legal substance that is Canadians’ right to decide their own relationship with.
But Canada is a diverse country and what works in one of its biggest cities certainly may not in a sub-Arctic hamlet, or vice-versa.
One anonymous resident in Rankin Inlet, several years sober, shared a different view that was informed by their experience growing up in the North.
“A lot of us are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics,” they said, adding that the history of trauma has made the population very vulnerable to abusing substances. “I disagree when people say having a few drinks is normal. It’s not normal for us. We’re too hurt, we’re too damaged to be able to handle the alcohol, to be able to control ourselves not to drink too much.”
They continued, saying that having a couple drinks with a barbecue and leaving it at that may be the norm in the south, but it’s not the norm in the North. Many in Nunavut may be able to have that positive and casual relationship with alcohol, said the resident, and for those individuals, the availability of beer and wine in town is a great benefit.
But those people and many Nunavummiut are living in “two completely different worlds,” the individual contended, explaining that nine out of 10 drinking nights in their experience start fun and casual but almost inevitably turn dark and potentially violent.
Rankin Inlet voted for the store, so the experiment is justified. The next several years will prove whether those two worlds can coexist positively.
One way that could happen, and a suggestion from many commenters, is to use some of the store’s profits to provide a shelter, treatment centre or some sort of safe space for families to shield themselves from the fallout of drinking.
One Facebook commenter on Kivalliq News, who also recommended a treatment centre, wrote this: “We only learn from ourselves. Sometimes we have eye-openers, and epiphanies. We are only human, and one cannot be controlled only by oneself. Expecting the government to say what we are allowed and not allowed just brings us back to colonial days. This out-of-hand phase is just the beginning, I’m sure it will wear off eventually.”