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GN cannot set territory-wide limits on alcohol orders, but it’s examining possibilities

The Government of Nunavut says it cannot stop residents in communities without liquor restrictions from placing large alcohol orders, but it’s going to consider that and other measures in an upcoming review of the Liquor Act.

The Nunavut Association of Municipalities wants the Government of Nunavut to limit large alcohol orders to communities without liquor restrictions but the territorial government says it cannot do that.
photo courtesy of the RCMP

In response to a Nunavut Association of Municipalities (NAM) news release in June calling upon the GN to clamp down on the heavy flow of alcohol into communities, the Department of Finance stated that it remains up to communities to determine whether they want liquor to be prohibited, restricted or unrestricted. In the latter case, there’s currently nothing the territorial government can do because “Nunavut’s regulatory framework does not allow the GN to broadly limit the quantity of alcohol Nunavummiut can legally import. As a result, we cannot currently set territory-wide limits,” reads a statement from the Department of Finance.

However, the department noted that the Liquor Act will be under public review later this year and various options will be considered.

“This issue – and the importance of modernizing Nunavut’s liquor system generally – is on our radar. This is why it is a priority of the government to begin a review of our Liquor Act this year. We have started early work, and will take NAM’s request into consideration,” the Department of Finance stated. “We intend to reach out to NAM and other stakeholders shortly to invite discussions on these and other important issues.”

The Nunavut Liquor Commission, which sold $15.7 million worth of liquor products in 2018-19, fulfills liquor orders and issues permits, including for households in unrestricted communities that purchase a full year’s supply of alcohol through sealift, large liquor orders for special events such as weddings and adult dances, and allows licensed establishments to order large quantities of alcohol to restock inventory.

Nunavummiut are also able to buy alcohol from outside the territory and bring it back through personal exemption limits while travelling – three litres of spirits, nine litres of wine, or 26 litres of beer – or purchase from the south via liquor permits. Some also import liquor from the south illegally.

Tony Bird, NAM’s executive director, noted that the territory’s mayors are aiming to impede sales through bootlegging.

“We are worried about bootleggers, and their orders are typically large: 18 of 1,750 ml or 50 of 375 ml. The size and frequency of orders are important considerations to identify/flag illegal resales (bootlegging) in to both restricted and unrestricted communities,” Bird stated.