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Rankin Inlet grapples with beer and wine store

RCMP, council looking for answers
RCMP Sgt. Patrick Frenette is seen at Rankin Inlet council May 8, when he gave a clear message that the beer and wine store is causing a significant problem in the community. He reiterated that message at the meeting Aug. 14. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

“Everybody’s getting quite tired, and we can’t sustain this for a long amount of time,” said Sgt. Patrick Frenette to the hamlet’s council Aug. 14.

“So if we don’t action any possible solutions long term and short term, something’s going to collapse, something’s going to give.”

He was referencing lack of resources and burnout from responders and medical professionals who are taking on a large workload in the wake of rising calls for service. Total calls for service were up 23 per cent for the year as of Frenette’s report, thought to be attributed to the impact of the beer and wine store, which opened late 2021.

Calls involving alcohol are up 42 per cent over last year, added Frenette. Prisoners are up 70 per cent, and Frenette anticipates more than 1,000 prisoners by the end of the year – at 652 as of the August council meeting – for a record.

One of the only statistics down is community engagements, which as Frenette said, “It’s difficult to be proactive when you’re up to 1,800 calls in six months.”

Asked about what resources the Rankin Inlet RCMP may receive to help them accommodate the increasing needs, Frenette indicated a new detachment might be looked at in 2026-27 and a new constable position in 2025.

Deputy mayor Martha Hickes quipped, “If I was the big boss, I’d shut it down today,” about the beer and wine store.

For Coun. Megan Pizzo-Lyall, the circumstances were more dire.

Saying she’s “known for being pushy and radical” but with a commitment to keeping people safe, she feels that “things are just getting worse. I feel like we’re ignored by the government.”

Pizzo-Lyall went on to say, “I need to state for the record, my dismay and my disappointment with our government elected leaders because we are in a state of what I would think is an emergency.”

Mental health and addictions, combined with lack of capacity to address them, have reached that point, she said.

“It’s a dim future if that’s what we’re facing now. It could just continue to get worse,” she said, going on to reference the outcome from a spring council meeting on the same subject for the hamlet to push for action regarding the store.

“What’s the end before the government listens and does something when we have cried for help over and over again? And nothing, except an offer of closing the beer and wine store for an extra day and limiting the amount of alcohol. That’s not even what we wanted. We wanted more mental health services.”

Coun. Michael Shouldice said the hamlet kicked the door open on addressing the store.

“If we don’t follow up, if we don’t keep it in the public’s view, if we do not do that, it’ll disappear,” he said. “People will go, ‘Ah well, they tried.’”

Coun. Lynn Rudd added that council has a responsibility to deliver public messaging as well.

“We should be doing this stuff on top of asking for help from our government or other organizations,” she said. “We have that obligation.”

Coun. Danny Kowmuk echoed his support, agreeing with Rudd that the community has a role too.

Shouldice had been thinking about what it means to be an effective council.

“We’re not responsible for absolutely everything in the world, and we have to be able to define what is it that we can influence, and if we can influence, what’s the best way that we can do that?” he wondered.

He said council needs to have its top messages nailed down and at the ready to discuss with the public.

“Being message driven is a consistent thing for us all, it’s a uniting thing, and we need to be clear on that,” he said, adding he doesn’t mind badgering people with follow-up communications to pursue his goals.

He agreed with Pizzo-Lyall about putting some urgency on this issue.

“We need to take our town back,” said Mayor Harry Towtongie. “Stop this alcohol beating everybody up.”