A community leader in the remote First Nation reserve of Natuashish, N.L., says it’s time to get tough on bootleggers and drug dealers to eradicate substance abuse in a community that has seen two suicides this spring, along with reports of free-flowing booze and gas sniffing.
“We need to put them out, kick them out of the community, so they don’t keep bringing in the stuff, they don’t keep selling the stuff that’s hurting our children,” said Mary Jane Edmonds, a former band councillor.
Alcohol was banned in 2008 after a vote by residents of the Innu community, which is nearly 300 kilometres north of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Two years later, people there voted again to stay dry.
But Edmonds said the local bylaw has been rendered useless since RCMP officers stopped searching all airline passengers coming into Natuashish.
The only way to get into the northern Labrador reserve in winter is by air. Summer travel involves a days-long ferry ride.
Bootlegged booze goes for upwards of $300 for a 750-millilitre bottle. Drugs, mainly marijuana and cocaine, are also easy to find.
Young people who can’t afford either often turn to gas sniffing.
This spring, the community of 936 people has seen two young people take their own lives, including 16-year-old Thunderheart Tshakapesh, son of the deputy grand chief of the Innu Nation.
There have also been two fires in abandoned houses known locally as gas-sniffing hangouts. Two young people were badly burned; an 11-year-old is being treated in a Toronto hospital.
Edmonds said the drugs, alcohol and gas go hand in hand in hand, triggering social problems for which she says bootleggers and drug dealers are ultimately to blame.
“That’s what’s really killing our youth and killing our…