'Superjuice' homebrew wreaks havoc on First Nations

A home-brewed drink called superjuice is having a devastating impact on young people living on remote Manitoba First Nations, a roundtable on native youth issues heard Tuesday.

A home-brewed drink called superjuice is having a devastating impact on young people living on a remote Manitoba First Nation, a round table on native youth issues heard Tuesday.

Superjuice is created using packets of high-potency yeast, usually purchased at brewing stores in Winnipeg, Bobby Monias, the regional youth adviser for Assembly for Manitoba Chiefs, told the round table on northern aboriginal youth issues.

People bring the yeast— which can producemore potent alcohol than regular yeastin just a few days— into the community, mix it with water and sugarin pails, and leave it to ferment for a couple of days, he said.

It's then put into two-litre bottles and sold for between $80 and $100 for each bottle.

"I'm not going to deny anything, because I've had my share of problems with superjuice. It's pretty strong," Monias, who works with youth in the Island Lake area of northeastern Manitoba, told CBC News.

"There's been a high rate of violence involving superjuice with young people of the four Island Lake communities, so we're just trying to make a change to stop the flow of superjuice," he said.

Several people have become ill and required hospitalization after drinking the homebrew, he added.

Latest in bootlegging

The four First Nations communities in the Island Lake area are dry, so no alcohol is allowed. However, RCMP said superjuice has become the drink of choice.

Darren Witzney, a mental-health therapist who works with the federal government in northern First Nations communities, told CBC News that superjuice is the latest in bootlegging.

"It's easy to make. It's fast to make. So it's very difficult for local authorities to detect it, because the incubation time is so short," he said.

"When they drink this, it seems that there's a much higher propensity for these people to become blacked out, and when they black out, anything can happen."

The only way Witzney could see to control the production of superjuice would be to limit access to the yeast required to make it, something he thought would be a matter for Health Canada.

A government spokesman said the three provincial cabinet ministers at the round table— Attorney General Dave Chomiak, Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross and Eric Robinson, minister of culture, heritage, tourism and sport— were very concerned to learn about problems with superjuice.

The three plan to meet in the future to come up with ways to deal with the issue.