Politicians weigh in on gas-sniffing in Natuashish

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the situation is challenging, while Penashue said a change in tactics may be necessary.
RCMP estimates 40-50 children in Natuashish are sniffing solvents. (CBC)

Politicians are weighing in on what the RCMP is calling a serious gas-sniffing problem in Natuashish.

Solvent abuse has been a problem in small Innu communities of northern Labrador for decades.

Premier Dunderdale said there is still hope that something can be done to improve the situation. (CBC)

Police now estimate between 40 and 50 children are sniffing gas daily.

On Thursday, RCMP Sgt. Faron Harnum told CBC News that dealing with the affected youth is a struggle, especially since it's sometimes difficult to get parents engaged in solving the problem, while some social workers are overwhelmed.

In response, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS), Charlene Johnson, said the government is managing the problem by offering parenting classes and arranging placements for young people in drug treatment programs outside the province.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale says while the situation in Natuashish is extremely challenging, she doesn't accept that nothing can be done or that the situation is out of control.

"As long as people are engaged, as long as parents are trying to find solutions, as long as the community is prepared to work with other partners to find a way forward, then there is hope," said Dunderdale.

Former Innu leader Peter Penashue is calling for a new strategy to cope with gas-sniffing in Natuashish. (CBC)

But former Innu Nation leader Peter Penashue said a change in tactics may be required.

"We obviously need to sit down and give a renewed direction to the process because it has to come from the community," said Penashue.

"Hopefully the community will be coming forward with a plan that we can all support."

Neither Dunderdale nor Penashue laid out specifics on how to deal with the problem.