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Hamlet building policy challenged

Mayor says it’s for safety, petition asks for council to reconsider
Arviat’s new hamlet building policy lays down bans of varying length for anyone involved in alcohol, harassment or violence. Some think it goes too far. File photo courtesy of Omar Caneo

In November 2022, Arviat’s hamlet council made an effort to crack down on violence, threats, misbehaviour and alcohol in public buildings.

The policy stated that anyone using or selling alcohol in a hamlet building would be asked to leave immediately and welcomed back 24 hours later. If they become verbally abusive, or violent the penalties are more severe.

Anyone involved in verbal abuse to users of a hamlet building or staff is banned from hamlet buildings for 30 days, while anyone involved in violence within or on the property surrounding hamlet buildings face a 90 day ban. Those involved in violence have to attend a council meeting and discuss their actions with council and offer an apology before being allowed back.

That policy applies for both children and adults – and if a child is banned, their parents and guardians are too.

So far, Arviat mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. said 12 people have faced bans of varying length since the policy was implemented. He was on Arviat radio Thursday, Feb. 9 to discuss it and some of the concerns surrounding the new rules.

A petition circulating in Arviat and online also asks council to reconsider the policy.

“Adults and children are not the same,” reads the online petition, started by Mona Tatty. “Consequences should not be the same. It does not make sense to punish minors the same as adults. We are recommending the Hamlet of Arviat to replace it with other consequences.”

The petition is set to be presented to council for consideration at the Feb. 14 council meeting. One supporter of the petition did not wish to speak to Kivalliq News until that had happened.

Savikataaq told Kivalliq News that the goal of the policy is to prevent harassment and keep a safe environment for everyone.

“We are against violence, we are against fighting, we are against all of that,” he said. “We are not against anyone (particularly).”

He said there had been “quite a bit” of bullying in various forms taking place, which spurred council to make the policy late November.

Since then, “We see more users, more people going to our community hall and arena now,” said Savikataaq. “People are saying now they know they’re going to a safe place because there’s security in place now, and everyone feels much safer.”

He added that in any situation, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

“There are people that are not happy with this,” he said, adding that some think it’s too harsh.

Savikataaq said everyone has the right to protest and start petitions, but they must be done so properly.

“Anyone can go to any elected officials to voice their concerns or complain, or hold a public meeting,” he said. “All that is fine. I’m not saying this happened, but the wrong ways (to protest) are to bully or force others to sign a petition, to change a petition after the fact and to force people to sign against their will.”

He said he’s not against people signing the petition in Arviat, and that everyone who has been banned will be welcomed back gladly when their time is up.

“Everyone has a right to be in a safe environment,” said Savikataaq. “That’s what this is all about. We are against bullying, we are against suicide, we are against all of that.”