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.




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  1. Prior to Division, there used to be a minimum cap on Special Occasion Permits. Anyone purchasing more than that amount was required to obtain a Special Occasion Permit. The idea being that there was an upper limit set on how much liquor a person could possess for themselves, and anything above that was deemed to be non-personal in nature, such as for conducting a wedding/anniversary or whatever. If a person had more, they could be liable to be charged for failing to get a SAP, and have their liquor seized etc. If the Liquor Act and regulations have been changed or reinterpreted since then to remove this reference, this problem is entirely on the GN. It would not be a question of not having the capacity to regulate (they somehow managed to in the GNWT days), or not having the opportunity to modernize or revamping the laws (they have, but this condition is now apparently gone). Rather, it would be a matter of reversing whatever screw up that has occurred in the last 20 years for GN to lose its ability to regulate the quantities of liquor a person could reasonably possess for their own consumption.

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