Sheshatshiu band council ponders alcohol ban

The Innu band council in the central Labrador town of Sheshatshiu is considering a move to ban alcohol in the community.
Sheshatshiu's band council is considering such a move, reports Kate Adach 2:30

The Innu band council in the central Labrador town of Sheshatshiu is considering a move to ban alcohol in the community, on the heels of several fatal incidents that residents believe are connected to drinking.

About 60 people attended an emergency crisis meeting on Sunday to discuss a proposal that would ban alcohol in the community.

The meeting was called after a 32-year-old woman was killed when she crashed her car into a tree. Police have not commented on the cause, but many people in the community believe it was a case of drunk driving.

Band council member Greg Pastitshi said the mood at the meeting indicated a desire for change. 

"Right away we had the whole support of the whole room saying, 'You guys, do something, let's go, let's make this happen,' " Pastitshi told CBC News.

"So at the moment we're in discussions with our lawyers to see how we can come up with a bylaw to ban alcohol in the community."

Residents of Natuashish, the other Innu community in Labrador, brought in a ban on alcoholic products in 2008, and voted again in 2010 to keep it. RCMP officers have said the bylaw - which among other things allows police to conduct searches at the coastal community's airstrip - has been effective.

Sheshatshiu resident Mike Rich said a ban may not solve the community's problems.

"Drugs [are] already an illegal substance, right? But it's freely available here — I don't know about freely, but it's easily accessible," he said.

"Alcohol is just going to be, I think the same thing, except people are going to start cashing in on it."

Rich brought his own ideas to the meeting, including a call to ensure bribes and intimidation are not part of the next election process, as well as a community watch system in which residents would look out for one another.

Chief Andrew Penashue said people have had enough.

"Whoever brings, you know, drugs into our community have to stop because it's not what we want. This is not what we want," he said.

Asked by CBC if by drugs he included alcohol, Penashue said, "Yep. Yep."

Penashue said the band council expects to meet with members again in mid-August.