The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) says it will not be closing the liquor stores at this point in time. The decision comes after calls from the Dene Nation motion on April 3rd to restrict all liquor and cannabis sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya says the Dene Nation is very concerned about the well being of the Dene people during the COVID-19 outbreak as alcohol use is on the rise in the NWT during this pandemic he claims.
This was determined after a meeting Yakeleya had with the chiefs of 27 communities to discuss issues they face during the pandemic.
“The alcohol abuse is complicating the battle against COVID-19 for us,” Chief Yakeleya said. “People in our communities are having parties, not physical distancing, there are young people drinking and bootleggers are bringing the alcohol into dry communities.”
Chief Yakeleya says the territorial government needs to put the restrictions in place before the Easter long weekend.
“Bootleggers are in the hay days of buying cases and cases and going into communities,” Chief Yakeleya said. “You know what, they even deliver it to the people. I mean come on, this is serious stuff.”
The GNWT responded Thursday to the motion put forth by the Dene leadership saying, closing liquor stores and enforcing a blanket prohibition would actually create more problems for the government.
“Our healthcare system, police and emergency first responders are working hard to address the realities created by COVID-19. At this time, it is our job to minimize potential additional stresses on these systems,” Caroline Wawzonek, Minister of Finance said in a statement. “Although on the surface it seems that closing liquor stores would remove dangerous behaviours, research tells us that removing access to alcohol during the emergency response to COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate the addiction-related health and social wellness challenges that we face throughout the territory every day.”
CKLB Radio has contacted the Dene Nation to provide a response to the government’s decision not to close the liquor stores. We will provide that information when it becomes available.