A graph presented by RCMP Sgt. Patrick Frenette at Rankin Inlet council showed the effect the beer and wine store has made in call volume for his detachment.
“We see a pretty significant spike on Tuesdays when the liquor store opens, and it spikes up Wednesday all through Saturday,” said Frenette, comparing it with a graph from the year before the store opened that showed relative flatness during the week with a spike on the weekend.
“Basically, our new Saturday for call volume starts on Tuesday now.”
January RCMP statistics painted a grim picture of the circumstances. Call volumes to the RCMP were up 69 per cent over January 2022, with calls involving alcohol up 163 per cent.
Fifty-seven detainees were logged this January, compared to just 18 in January 2022. Forty-nine of those detainees were intoxicated.
Intimate partner violence calls are up 716 per cent year-on-year for January. In the first month of the year, there were eight calls for sexual assault and 100 for mischief, along with three suicides.
“We’ve seen some significant increases in call volumes, especially in relation to call volumes relating to alcohol and prisoners,” said Frenette.
A presentation from fire chief Mark Wyatt followed Frenette’s, noting a similar increase in call volume, which Wyatt added was par for the course for fire departments across the country.
Total calls for the Rankin Inlet department in 2022 was 846, an all-time high, ahead of the previous high in 2021 of 672. The department also attended calls for two suicides, three suicidal people, one suicidal cleanup and 44 discoveries of human remains in 2022.
“If this keeps up, our cemetery ain’t going to be big enough anymore,” said Coun. Danny Kowmuk later in the meeting about the high amount of death in the community.
The vast majority of calls to the fire department are for medical issues, with 729 of the 846 calls last year being for ambulance service.
“We get a ton of medical calls now,” said Wyatt, adding that he wouldn’t necessarily attribute that to alcohol.
Wyatt said the hiring of deputy fire chief George Aksadjuak has been a benefit for the department and he is looking to train Aksadjuak further this year.
Later in the meeting, Mayor Harry Towtongie seemed at a loss for how the community could address the challenges with alcohol since the beer and wine store opened.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said, suggesting perhaps there could be a way to close the store for certain periods of time based on how many incarcerations there are in town.
He expressed a feeling that he isn’t doing enough to help the issue, wondering what could be done.
“It’s a good thing for people who can control their booze,” said Towtongie about the store. “But for other people, it’s a really big problem and a lot of kids are suffering.”
Coun. Kelly Lindell said she knows people who had to leave town for months to get dry, but when they return, they come back to the same difficult circumstances that they left.
“You’re never going to get rid of alcohol,” she said, suggesting there could be other ways to address the social impacts than closing the store. “If there’s no beer and wine store, they’re going to find another way to get it.”
Coun. Patrick Tagoona called it a huge discussion.
“I know we’re talking about the beer and wine store but really we’re also talking about mental health,” he said.