Image by Mike Beauregard, via flickr

The Northern News Services published an article a few weeks ago about a women’s healing and sharing circle program in Kimmirut, Nunavut (see Sewing for baby’s health, February 8, 2012).

The program, run out of the Nunavut Arctic College, started in January and runs until the end of March. Women are invited to learn to make sealskin mitts or fabric snowpants with elders. During the program, elders share their teachings about not using alcohol or other substances during pregnancy.

The reporter interviews Margaret Piercey, territorial FASD co-ordinator, who describes the program as using a ‘relational approach‘ based on equality, empowerment and respect. She’s quoted as saying: “Approaching women from a strength-based perspective demonstrates a belief in their ability and enhances the chances of women staying away from alcohol.”

Kimmirut is located on the southern coast of Baffin Island, about a 30 minute flight from Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital city. It has a population of 425 people, of which approximately 91 per cent are Inuit.

Kimmirut was in the news again last week when two communities in Nunavut held plebiscites to change their local liquor regulations (see Two Nunavut communities vote in liquor plebiscites, February 29, 2012). While the community of Resolute Bay voted to maintain their current regulations, Kimmirut voted to end its prohibition system or status as a ‘dry’ community and establish an alcohol committee system.

Under a committee system, community members who want to purchase liquor will have to go before a committee and make a case for their order. If they receive approval, they can order and have alcohol shipped to the community

According to coverage in The Star, this plebiscite vote means that 14 of Nunavut’s 25 communities will operate with an alcohol education committee. (See Baffin Island community votes for alcohol committee that decides who gets booze, March 1, 2012).

Alcohol sales in Nunavut are controlled by the Nunavut Liquor Commission. The Commission website describes the unique challenges of selling alcohol in Nunavut: “The major challenge for liquor retailing in Nunavut is the need to service a very limited market spread out over a fifth of Canada’s land mass and connected only by air and limited seasonal sea access.”

There are no liquor stores in Nunavut so all orders are placed through the Commission headquarters in Rankin Inlet and distributed via air cargo.

For more on northern Canada and alcohol policy, see an earlier post Community-driven alcohol policy in Canada’s North (December 15, 2011).

The women’s sewing circle is funded by the Department of Health and Social Services (see brochure below) and you can learn more about Nunavut’s FASD Initiative here.