Alcohol controls and violence in Nunavut: a comparison of wet and dry communities

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2011 Feb;70(1):19-28. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v70i1.17801. Epub 2011 Feb 17.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine if communities in Nunavut that prohibit the importation of alcoholic beverages have less violence relative to communities that allow alcohol importation.

Study design: A retrospective cross-sectional study based on community-level records of violent crimes known to the police.

Methods: Violence was measured using community-level records of homicide, assault and sexual assault as reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 23 communities in Nunavut for the years 1986 to 2006. Crude-rate comparisons were made between wet communities (which allow alcohol importation) and dry communities (which prohibit alcohol importation) and contrasted with national rates for context.

Results: Wet communities in Nunavut recorded rates of violent crime that were higher than the rates recorded by dry communities. Relative to dry communities, wet communities' overall sexual assault rate was 1.48 (95% CI = 1.38-1.60) times higher, the serious assault rate was 2.10 (95% CI = 1.88-2.35) times higher and the homicide rate was 2.88 (95% CI = 1.18-8.84) times higher. Although safer than wet communities, dry communities reported rates of violence that were higher than national rates including a serious assault rate that was double the national rate (3.25 per 1,000 vs. 1.44 per 1,000) and a sexual assault rate that was at least seven times as high as the national rate (7.58 per 1,000 vs. 0.88 per 1,000).

Conclusions: As elsewhere in the Arctic, communities in Nunavut that prohibited alcohol were less violent than those that allowed alcohol importation. Even with prohibition, dry communities recorded rates of violence much greater than the national average.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / supply & distribution*
  • Arctic Regions
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inuits*
  • Male
  • Nunavut
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Violence / prevention & control*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult