The local Great Whale River Cooperative store in the northern Quebec community of Kuujjuarapik will now sell beer and wine as of Wednesday.
The move is an attempt to get a bootlegging problem under control, according to Pierre Roussel, the secretary-treasurer of the fly-in-only town of 750 people. It's located on Hudson's Bay, about 1,700 kilometres north of Montreal.
"We heard that some bottles were selling for ridiculous prices … sometimes $300 or $400 for a bottle," said Roussel.
"If [people] are spending that much money, they don't have money to spend on other essential goods. That is something we really want to address."
The change to allow the Great Whale River Co-op to sell beer and wine was approved by the local Kuujjuarapik municipal council last year, said Roussel. He added an informal census of the population showed that about two-thirds of the Kuujjuarapik residents were in favour of the change.
Other Nunavik communities, such as Puvirnituq and Kuujjuaq, already sell alcohol, according to Roussel. And, it is something the cooperatives are allowed to do if there is consensus of their board on the issue and the local municipal council passes a resolution permitting it, he added.
"It's a legal product, so it's better to control it than ban it totally," he said, adding the move will also mean the money being spent on alcohol outside the community will now benefit the local economy.
Kuujjuarapik also already has two bars on its territory, he added.
'They won't sell any hard liquor'
Kuujjuarapik is side-by-side with the Cree community of Whapmagoostui, with a population of about 1,000. They share a town site, but are run as two separate municipalities.
Roussel said there were discussions between the two communities about the local sale of beer and wine at the cooperative, but approval was only needed by Kuujjuarapik officials, as the cooperative is located on Nunavik territory.
No one from Whapmagoostui was available to comment and there has been a change in the local band council on the Cree side since those discussions.
"Control is a very important word," said Roussel. "We know that the [Great Whale River Co-op] will regulate the sales and they won't sell any hard liquor."
Calls for comment at the local Great Whale River Co-op and at the head office of the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec were not returned. A message on the cooperative's Facebook page says people will be able to buy 12 cans of beer and one litre of wine a day, Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Customers will have to come back with their receipt after 4 p.m. to pick up their order.
People must have a piece of photo identification or two pieces of non-photo identification.
Also, if the person has an outstanding debt at the store, they must also pay $10 toward their debt to be able to purchase beer or wine.
It also says that no verbal or physical abuse will be tolerated and no one under the influence of alcohol will be allowed into the store.
"Please be advised that this will be strictly monitored to the best of our capabilities, to ensure that all the rules and regulations will be followed," said the notice on the Great Whale River Co-op's Facebook page.