Many Innu children suffering from FAS

There's another blow in store for the Innu of Labrador; a member of the Innu Health Commission says parents have been told that most of the children being treated for gas sniffing also show signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

It's a condition that means a lifetime of coping and is the scourge of aboriginal communities across the country. It stems from mothers drinking during pregnancy.

For their children, it's a life sentence that can cause facial and other deformities, as well as, a string of serious learning and behavioural problems.

Now George Rich of the Innu Health Commission says most of the 37 youngsters sniffing gas may have it.

"They told us most of the kids have fetal alcohol syndrome, for sure."

It's another blow for the Innu. Their crisis team was in Goose Bay scouting locations for a new substance abuse centre today. Rich, a reformed alcoholic, says this news has them reeling. "Coming from a community that has 90 per cent alcoholism; me, myself and my wife, I wondered what damage have we done with our kids that's what went through my mind."

Dr. Ted Rosales estimates 5,000 people have fetal alcohol syndrome or effects in Newfoundland and Labrador. Ottawa announced $11 million for FAS last year. This province got little of that because there are no established programs here.

"I know it only works when the community takes it upon themselves to do what is needed to be done."

The Innu say they want to attack the problem, but they are years behind native groups out west in terms of education, training and coping.

Some help may be on the way. Tomorrow, Ottawa is expected to announce more support for aboriginal communities dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome.