The Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) plans to adjust alcohol prices based on alcohol content, set a minimum price for standard drinks, and give communities greater control over liquor sales.
The GNWT revealed the policies they plan to implement as part of their alcohol strategy, which they announced was finished in a news release on March 29 after approximately three years.
In the announcement, Julie Green, Minister of HSS, stated that their strategy was shaped by engaging Northerners most affected by alcohol usage and alcohol-related harm.
“Carrying out these actions will require continued involvement by, and collaboration with, Indigenous governments, community governments, and Indigenous organizations, to ensure that the needs and perspectives of residents are considered when determining how to move forward,” she stated. “I find it encouraging that we have identified areas where we can work together, across departments and with different orders of government to achieve our goal of restoring health to residents and creating healthier and safer communities by addressing alcohol-related harm.”
HSS also engaged directors of policy and deputy ministers, and Indigenous governments to get feedback and validation on their strategy draft.
During a webcast presentation shortly before the announcement was released publicly, Bryany Denning, senior advisor of problematic substance use with HSS, said that high levels of alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths in the NWT was one of the primary motivations for creating the strategy.
Also part of the webcast was Sara Chorostkowski, director of mental wellness and addictions recovery with HSS. She said that residents affected by alcohol usage believe that community support is one of the most important elements in recovery and after-care.
Denning explained that bootleggers were a contributor in getting alcohol in the hands of youth, some as young as 15. Bootleggers are usually community members who travel frequently.
She also said that youth were saying the reason they drank was because they were bored, which is why HSS plans on expanding programs that provide healthy recreational activities, and are engaging communities to help them make informed decisions about alcohol usage in their area.
They also plan to incentivize sober gatherings and non-alcoholic drink options.
Addressing the lack of workers in the North, Denning suggested that some work within communities doesn’t necessarily need to be done by a clinician but someone in the affected community with experience dealing with alcohol-related issues.
A budget for the strategy has not been put in place. Denning said conversations were ongoing but they didn’t know the cost to implement their strategy.
The Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation Report (CAPE Report), suggested in 2019 that HSS create an alcohol strategy after they gave the NWT a failing grade in nine of the 11 policy domains used in their evaluation.