More than lip service
Rankin residents will take concerns over alcohol abuse to the polls

RANKIN INLET (Nov 26/97) - A plebescite, scheduled for the Dec. 8 municipal election day, will allow the community to determine if it wants 151-proof alcohol banned from the hamlet.

It will also allow the community to vote for or against setting up an alcohol education committee that will have the authority to restrict the amount of liquor individuals can bring into Rankin.

While it's necessary to let the people decide these issues through the democratic process, there shouldn't be much debate about stopping individuals from shipping in boxes and boxes of booze that is clearly more than the normal amount of consumption.

There should indeed be a limit on how much liquor a person can bring into the community. A person should only be permitted to bring in what they, themselves, can consume.

But let's be clear about one thing -- the restriction won't stop social drinkers from continuing to drink. The restriction is geared more toward bootleggers who are shipping alcohol into the community for the sole purpose of making a tremendous profit. Why allow bootleggers to continue to make a profit off the booze?

Repulse Bay already has an alcohol restriction in place and it is said to be working well. In that community, residents are permitted to ship in the equivalent of two 40-ounce hard liquor per month, a reasonable amount for the social drinker.

This is probably the biggest step a community can take as a whole to battle the alcohol problem that not only affects Rankin, but all across the North -- in dry communities, wet communities, and in communities where the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Alcohol abuse is everywhere.

But there are ways to curb the epidemic. Elders have said so, young people have said so, too. They agree that this restriction is the best way to decrease the amount of overdrinking and the numbers of underage drinkers.

While the elders were the driving force behind the plebescite, teens have said in public meetings that they are sick of seeing their 14- or 15-year-old friends drunk on the weekends. The teens want this, everybody seems to be in favor of restricting alcohol to a reasonable amount.

Assuming Rankin Inlet follows Repulse Bay and other communities that restrict the amount of alcohol, we can only assume it will work just as well here as it does in those areas.

The alcohol education committee, if the community wants it, will have the authority to decide the acceptable amount and will have the responsibility of enforcing the regulation. This system seems to work in other communities, why wouldn't it work here?

But the results of the Dec. 8 vote will determine if the amount of alcohol is restricted -- if the people don't want it, the restriction won't become regulation.

The vote needs a 60 per cent majority in order for the government to change the current regulations that prohibit the sale of alcohol in the community (except for guests of the hotel and those with a special licence to sell during an event).

And if people say they don't want the amount restricted, aren't they really saying that they don't care about the community's alcohol problem and aren't interested in making Rankin Inlet a better place for us all to live?