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A heart-wrenching cry for help in Davis Inlet

The Story

A year after the death of six Innu children in a house fire, the community of Davis Inlet receives another startling wakeup call. Six youths, aged 11 to 14, are caught on video, attempting suicide by sniffing gasoline fumes. "I want to sniff gasoline," says one teenager, "I want to kill myself." Simeon Jacobish, the constable who discovered the teens, tells the CBC that the kids have a lot of anger inside. "I don't blame those kids," he says, "it's not their fault, it's the government's fault." Davis Inlet has been described as Canada's third world. The homes in this tiny isolated community of 500 have no running water, sewage disposal or proper heating. These basic amenities, promised by the government back in 1967, were never delivered. Many children, some as young as six months, are neglected by parents too drunk to care. They suffer from tuberculosis and skin infections caused by poor hygiene. The crushing conditions in Davis Inlet have led to sky-high suicide rates.

Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: Jan. 28, 1993
Guests: Eric Gullage, Simeon Jacobish, George Rich
Reporter: Brenda Craig
Duration: 2:14

Did You know?

• "Every adult in the community has contemplated suicide," said addictions counsellor Bill Partridge, who was called to the scene of the attempted suicide. "Every second person has attempted it in one form or another." Nearly 25 per cent of the population tried in the past year alone. Partridge also said that 95 per cent of the adult population suffered from alcoholism, and he estimated that of the 360 children in Davis Inlet more than 10 per cent, some as young as five years old, are "problem sniffers" of gasoline. -- Feb. 22, 1993, Time Magazine

• Gas sniffing is not illegal so the RCMP officers are not legally allowed to take away the plastic bags filled with gasoline.

• Gas sniffing children are easy to spot because they don't put their arms in the sleeves of their coats. They hug the bags close to their chests and draw the fumes through the collars of their jackets.

• Gasoline is considered an "inhalant." Children use inhalants because they are easily accessible and provide a cheap high. Inhalants give off chemical fumes causing drug-like effects when inhaled. Inhalants include everyday household items such as paint, paint thinner, glue, lighter fluid, liquid paper and even nail polish.

• In February 1993, 18 young solvent abusers and about 30 family members and interpreters were sent to Poundmaker's Lodge, an addiction treatment centre in Alberta. All except one successfully completed the six-month treatment program. They returned to their community in September 1993 where they spent a month at a wilderness camp at Sango Bay. Elders and counsellors also spent two weeks in Davis Inlet with the children and their families. The treatment was funded by Health Canada.


Davis Inlet: Innu Community in Crisis more