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Alcohol Prohibition Is Ending in Canada’s Most Northern Capital City

A new alcohol store is opening in Iqaluit, Nunavut after years of prohibition.

by Allison Tierney
Sep 6 2017, 4:07pm

Photos via Wikimedia; Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

As of 12:30 PM on September 6, sales will begin at a new alcohol store in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The opening of the store, which is located in a liquor warehouse shut down as a store more than 40 years ago, follows years of alcohol prohibition in communities within Canada's youngest territory. The store will only sell wine and beer, will require purchasers to be at least 19 years old and to set up an account, CBC News reports.

A strategy led by government includes a three-year pilot project, which the new store is part of. The strategy aims to lower alcohol-related harm in Nunavut, one aspect of which is selling only lower-percentage alcohol. In the early 2000s, an estimated 95 percent of criminal cases in the territory were related to alcohol; Nunavut has had historically high crime rates and suicide rates.

Alcohol has also been available in the territory via mail-order services previously.

Nunavut's Finance Minister Keith Peterson will be opening the store today, but other politicians in the territory have strongly opposed the alcohol retailer.

Nunavut politician Paul Okalik resigned as justice minister last year over the decision to open the store. At the time, he said he "could not just sit there and accept" the decision.

In 2015, Iqaluit residents voted 1,126 to 326 in favour of the store.

"I have won and lost many issues in cabinet," Okalik told CBC News. "But on this one it was very difficult because it impacted on my work in terms of trying to provide more programming support for those who are living with addictions in our territory." Okalik was speaking in part to Nunavut's lack of an alcohol treatment centre.

A restaurant in Iqaluit also started serving beer and wine, under certain restrictions, on September 1. A microbrewery is also planned to open in 2018 in the city.

In 2010, a task force reviewing the territory's Liquor Act recommended making lower-alcohol options such as wine and beer accessible. However, some in the territory oppose the sale of alcohol completely. A 2012 task force report in Nunavut made note of the continued opposition to alcohol sales, including those urging to enact a territory-wide ban.

This article has been updated to include additional information about mail-order alcohol services.