Residents of a Labrador Innu community will vote Thursday on whether to ban alcohol and drugs from their reserve.
The proposal would see all intoxicants banned in Natuashish, an Innu community founded in 2002 after residents relocated from Davis Inlet, a community that attracted international media attention because of gas-sniffing and appalling housing conditions.
Social problems, though, came with the move, and Chief Prote Poker said alcoholism remains rampant and a threat to the village's future.
"That's why I think it's important that we try something, and one of those things … is to try to ban alcohol in our community," Poker said.
Poker believes alcohol was a factor in incidents before Christmas, in which several homes were burned and children had been abandoned.
Although there is no liquor store in Natuashish, a thriving bootleg industry supplies booze to anyone with the money to have it flown in.
Poker says new powers flowing from the creation of reserve status at Natuashish can give the band council and police the power to search bags at the airstrip, and to confiscate liquor and recreational drugs.
To enact those powers, though, the Innu must vote in favour of a community bylaw.
Poker acknowledge that a ban would make him and other band council members unpopular with some.
"It's not about popularity. It's about the healing of the community," Poker said.
"I'm concerned about that. I think a lot of people will realize in the end, in the long run, the good things that will come out of this if [the vote is] favourable."
The community has been asked to attend a meeting in the school gymnasium on Thursday afternoon.
Residents will be asked — literally — to vote with their feet. Those in favour of prohibition will be asked to stand on one side of the gym, with opponents moving to the other.