RCMP seize liquor near Turnor Lake

by Phil Ambroziak

It may be more closely associated with the fictional Hazzard County, but, in reality, bootlegging is alive and well in parts of Saskatchewan’s northwest.

On June 29, a check stop initiated by the Turnor Lake detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) resulted in the discovery of substantial amounts of alcohol in four vehicles allegedly being used to transport the beer and liquor for resale to members of the community.

According to RCMP Cpl. Donald Caisse, it’s not uncommon for suspects to illegally sell alcohol to Turnor Lake residents, as the closest liquor stores are located 74 kilometres away in La Loche and 87 kilometres away in Buffalo Narrows.

“It can get pretty lucrative at times,” Caisse said. “The going rate for alcohol in Turnor Lake is six beers for $20.”

The recent check stop, which was held in cooperation with the community’s Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapter, resulted in the seizure of: 52 18-pack cases of beer; three 24-pack cases of beer; one 12-pack case of beer; 12 premixed vodka cans; two 26-ounce wine bottles; one 66-ounce wine bottle and two 40-ounce wine bottles.

The total resale value of the beer alone is thought to be close to $3,400.

“Normally, on a weekend and especially a long weekend, we receive five to 10 alcohol-related calls at the Turnor Lake detachment,” Caisse noted. “For the 96 hours following this seizure, we only received two such calls.”

As of press time, nine adults were expected to be charged for offences under the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Act. When contacted last week, Caisse said he wasn’t certain whether these charges would fall under section 135 of the Act (canvassing) or section 138 (the keeping of liquor with the intent to sell).

“We’re in consultation with the crown prosecutor from Meadow Lake who will advise us of what the charges should be,” he said.
Caisse went on to express the fortunate timing of the check stop, adding, however, his suspicion that similar offences occur on an ongoing basis.

“It does happen in several northern communities, but there isn’t a problem in La Loche or Buffalo Narrows because they have liquor stores present,” he said. “I’ve also been in contact with the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority to see what they can do to help prevent offences like this from happening in the future.”

The officer explained his desire to see a limit enforced on the amount of alcohol customers are allowed to purchase from liquor stores at one time.

“Right now, a store clerk will sell someone 15 cases of beer at one time and not think there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. “If we keep doing the same thing, we’re always going to get the same results. But, if we do things better, we can change those results for the better.”

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