A hit and run by a motor vehicle that killed a child in Arviat on Oct. 23 has emotions running high as the community prepares to vote on the Arviat liquor plebiscite in November.
A 27-year-old Arviat man has been charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle causing death and failing to remain at a scene of an accident following the fatal collision. The child who was struck by the all-terrain vehicle was a pedestrian. The youngster was taken to the Arviat Health Centre for medical care but succumbed to injuries, according to the RCMP.
Arviat's Gord Billard said his thoughts have been seriously impacted by the fatality in Arviat on Oct. 23.
“There were messages and posts already appearing on Facebook asking people to vote no out of respect for this dead little girl,” said Billard.
“There are so many children in this town and, ultimately, they are the ones who will suffer the most. Anecdotal evidence already suggests some people here don't know how to drink socially and responsibly. And who needs a 24 of beer and 10 bottles of wine every week?
“Alcohol does not mix well here, no matter who's consuming it. More often than not it leads to sorrow and tragedy, as this most recent event proves.
“It's not the first hit-and-run homicide we've seen here, nor the only death attributable to alcohol abuse.”
Arviat's Kelly Owlijoot is of the mindset that people who want to drink will find a way to obtain alcohol, whether they live in a dry community or not.
“Even if (Arviat) remains dry, people are still going to drink,” said Owlijoot. “It's a personal choice to drink or not to drink, not anyone else's.
“With beer and wine (being obtainable and legal), there wouldn't be so much hard liquor available.
“People that will say no are ignorant to the fact that there is already a lot of booze in Arviat.
“The only difference is right now hard liquor is way more accessible than beer and wine.”
People in Arviat will be voting to maintain the status quo in the hamlet of Arviat and surrounding area or allow a new restricted-quantities system which would limit the amount of liquor a person can purchase or import into the community every seven days to one 24 case of 355 ml of beer, or eight litres of wine (two boxes of four litres, eight one-litre bottles or 10 750-ml bottles).
Voting yes means you want the law to change, while voting no means you want the law to remain the same.
In Coral Harbour, voters will go with the status quo or vote for change that will see people be allowed to purchase or import one litre of spirits, four litres of wine and 18 litres of beer every 14 days.
The Department of Finance held two public meetings to discuss the changes in Coral Oct. 27, and was to hold two more information sessions in Arviat on Oct. 29.
The yes side requires 60 per cent of the vote for the law to change. Forty per cent or more of the vote for the no side would mean the current system that prohibits the purchase, sale, transport and possession of liquor in the two hamlets and surrounding areas will continue.
Many people are afraid to comment on the plebiscite in their home community, for fear of reprisals from those who feel differently about what they call a “touchy subject.”
One female member of the community of Arviat, who asked not to be identified, said people are responsible for their moral or immoral actions, whether they had a few drinks or not.
She said alcohol doesn't change a person's morality just because of alcohol's sake.
“It might change a person's empathy, more or less, but I think some people don't realize the consequences that alcohol can have,” she said. “If we're talking about family, what are they like? Do they have a lot of money? Do they have drinking problems?
“Consuming alcohol takes a lot of practice and it's so easy to go over the limits and never realize the things you do wrong after blacking out.
“It's scary to think that a lot of people might take advantage of the legalization, but it's also important to know that it's (alcohol) always going to be in the town no matter what.
“I really wish there was a healing facility here first.”
An advance poll will be held in the hamlet council chambers on Nov. 2 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., with regular voting being held at the community hall on Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Voters in Coral Harbour will also be casting their ballots on a liquor
plebiscite in that community on Nov. 9, with advance voting also on Nov. 2.
To be eligible to cast a ballot, voters must be a Canadian citizen, 19 years of age or older on Nov. 9 and a resident of Arviat or Coral Harbour for at least one year as of Nov. 9.