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Lion's Roar : Arctic Writing


Elisapee Ootoovok Speech

Invention of Quallanology

Have you ever been a Quallanut?

Training for Who?


Drunks.... (Nov. 4, 1999--Iqaluit) It's 4 AM. A young Inuk has just staggered off down the street. An hour ago she had started knocking on the door of the house next to us. That wouldnt have been so bad except that she was knocking with a shovel, hard. The Folks next door are away. I go outside in my pajamas to see what's happening--it's freezing out here!. There's a teenage girl, drunk, blood pouring from her nose, swinging a shovel at the house. The metal door is smashed and dented in. She catches sight of me--"Help me, if you don't help me... I... my life depends on it...." She slumps against the wall, her blood smears down the white surface. She shreaks "help, help, help, help, help...." I go back to make a phone call, before I realize the place I'm housesitting in is so new that the phone hasn't been hooked up yet. Oh God. I've been back in Iqaluit one month. The week before I left to go to school in the south 2 years ago I saw another woman with blood all over her. This was in Iqaluit house. Woke up at 1 Am to the sound of crashing in the apt next door. Went down to knock on their door; an older Inuk woman opened the door screaming, she was wearing what used to be a white t-shirt--you could tell because one of the sleaves was still white--the rest was covered in blood, her blood streaming from bruises to her face. Her boyfriend was in the midst of beating her up. Both of them were drunk. I've only ever seen this kind of damage to a human being once before--that was after a police horse trampled a protestor at a demonstration in the south. I've been told that four guys from Alberta--I don't know their names--own the biggest bar in town. That is, aside from the Legion. And what about the legion?--is this really what my dad and grandad fought in WW2 for?--so that folks at the top of the world could get liver disease and beat up their loved ones? The main sales are Molsons, Labatts, Seagrams--1000 bottles of beer a night at the Legion someone tells me. Last week, the TV reported that the owner of Seagrams, Edgar Bronfman, just bought a new $12 million apartment in New York city. Look: does anyone else think that there is something wrong with subsidizing Seagrams with Inuit blood? These guys are profiting: let's name them shall we? Let's publish their names. Because I guess somewhere along the line we must have all agreed that the right of these 30 or so guys to make money is more important than all of us living in a town free of bloodied women and violent men. Was there a formal signing ceremony, where the leaders of Nunavummiut signed a declaration saying "Yes, we Nunavumiut agree to give you 30 or so Qallunaat in Cincinatti and Montreal and New York all this money, and in return we will fill our prisons and hospitals and shelters with broken human beings". Amen. I guessed I missed it. Listen, I hate to bring race into this but can we tell the truth for once about liquor? The vicitms and perpetrators of alcohol-induced crimes--the people going to prison and the people ending up in the women's shelter and hospital and the people being buried in the cemetary--most of these people are Inuit; the people manufacturing liquor and the people selling liquor and the people operating bars are mostly Qallunaat. Qaalunaat make money, Inuit go to jail or go to the hospital. That's the simple truth. Can we be honest about this ?--NO. Instead, Qaalunaat say, well, Inuit can't handle their liquor, that's no reason to stomp on my right to get a drink! Well, hold on a second. That's simply a case of blaming the victim. Inuit firms dont make and distribute alcohol, they dont sell it here in Iqaluit--Qallunaat firms do this. Now NTI and QC are busy negotiating Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreements in all sorts of businesses that will open and close--mines that will open give a few jobs and close, clean up the DEW line for a few years and a few jobs---but liquor seems destined to be here for a long time. Liquor has a big impact. Liquor makes a lot of money. I think it's time for NTI to negotiate an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement with the Liqour companies. IIBAs can be negotiatated regarding any large commercial transaction in Nunauvt--what commercial transactions affect Inuit more than drinking and smoking? The NIRB has the right to call witnesses and subpeona information. NIRB should find out which companies sell the most liqour in Iqaluit--then every year Inuit should negotiate with these firms the impacts and benefits of liquor consumption. A few years ago the local RCMP detachment reported that it jails 2000 people per year in Iqaluit--90% due to alcohol-related offenses. OK, look: If liquor companies have the right to make money off of the increased criminalization of Iqaluit then they should pick up the tab--give the liquor companies a bill for the policing of Iqaluit, and make them pay for 70% of operating the women's shelter, and for 30 or 40% of operating the hospital--and make the liquor companies pay 100% for the care and education FOR LIFE of every foetal alcohol syndrome baby born in Nunavut.

Businesses have costs and consequences. Seagrams and the others are profiting from wrecking the community of Iqaluit, and they are getting off scot-free, passing on the costs of a wrecked society on to we who live here. Why should we pay? I've never been inside Edgar Bronfman's $12 million apartment in New York City. Has he ever invited you over? What has he ever done for us? If he can spend $12 mil on an apartment, he can spend $5 mil on our hospital. If he refuses, take him to court. Fly down to New York with a planeload of battered women, and ask him why he has the right to profit while they get killed. See if he likes that kind of publicity. And in the meantime, he can buy my neighbour a new door. Folks next door Drunks...