Alcohol-related RCMP calls rise in Behchoko during first Tlicho Annual Gathering after ban lifted

Alcohol-related RCMP calls rise in Behchoko during first Tlicho Annual Gathering after ban lifted

Five people were charged with impaired driving during the week of the annual Tlicho Annual Gathering in Behchoko this year. Alcohol related disturbance also climbed during this year's assembly, according to RCMP.

This follows the decision to not have an alcohol prohibition at this year's gathering, a break from previous assemblies and a move meant to respect a vote to lift the community's alcohol ban in December.

Behchoko Chief Clifford Daniels said he wanted to see what would happen if the ban remained lifted during the gathering. He was "hoping that people would respect the gathering and not really interfere with [it]."

But, he said, there were "problems."

RCMP said five people were charged with impaired driving charges in Behchoko from the week of the annual gathering, July 31 to August 7. According to the most recent numbers from Statistics Canada, there are about 10 impaired driving infractions per week on average across the entire N.W.T.

Police also responded to 112 calls for service during the Annual Gathering. Last year during the same week in Behchoko — under prohibition and not hosting the gathering — police responded to 62 calls.

These were calls related to the liquor act and calls for disturbances, such as mischief or public intoxication. RCMP said that most of the calls for disturbances were related to alcohol.

RCMP also lodged 65 prisoners — most of whom were brought in on alcohol-related grounds.

An ambulance supervisor from Behchoko, Darin Daniels, said he's seen more drinking during special events since the prohibition was lifted.

"You can see it in the amount of people that are kind of sitting around or sleeping outside," he said.

The ambulance service has been getting more calls, Darin Daniels said, because people are passed out in public places and bystanders don't know who else to call.

"People, they don't really know what to do in that kind of circumstance so they end up just calling the RCMP or the ambulance," said Darin Daniels.

Clifford Daniels didn't say whether or not he would like to see a ban on liquor at the next Annual Gathering.

"There's got to be careful consideration on these gatherings because you have lots of friends and family coming together on an annual basis," he said. "It's one of these things, you're just going to learn as you go."

Next year's Annual Gathering will be in Whati — a community that has an alcohol ban in place. It will return to Behchoko in four years.