Nfld. & Labrador

Crosbie only party leader to visit an Indigenous community in Labrador

The PC leader heard about the issues people in Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation are facing while campaigning in the community last week.
Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation chief Eugene Hart, left, talks to PC Leader Ches Crosbie at the band office. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

One day before the provincial election, only one party leader managed to make it to an Indigenous community in Labrador during the campaign. 

Ches Crosbie stopped in to Sheshatshiu during a stop in central Labrador last week, along with local PC candidate Shannon Tobin, who's an employee of the band council. 

"Either he's going to get in the house or he's going to come back to my band office because he's on leave now," said Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation chief Eugene Hart said of Tobin, who's running in the Lake Melville district.

Hart, Crosbie, and Lake Melville candidate Shannon Tobin confer at the band office. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

In 2015, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball took over responsibility for what is now the Indigenous Affairs portfolio. But during his only stop in Labrador this campaign, he didn't make it to any Indigenous community. 

"No one has requested to [meet]," Ball said when speaking with reporters at the time. "They should know we're here today. Meeting with Indigenous leaders is nothing unusual for me. We meet and chat with them all the time."

Meanwhile, Tobin brought Crosbie to Sheshatshiu last week to get acquainted with issues the community is facing.

"Our community is expanding every year," Hart told Crosbie. "There's 140 families waiting for homes. There's a lot of overcrowding.

"If you want to raise a healthy family, you need a healthy home," he said.

Hart stopped short of endorsing Tobin, pointing out the band has a good relationship with the province. And while Ball didn't visit Sheshatshiu on this trip, Hart said, the Liberal leader has visited the community a number of times during his term as premier.

Band manager Gregory Pastitshi pulled Crosbie aside to discuss money taken away by the province for Innu youth who are facing some major social issues such as suicide and substance abuse. 

Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation band manager Gregory Pastitshi talks to Crosbie about money for youth which was cut by the provincial government. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"It's really damaging on families," he said. "If the PCs get in I think they should seriously look at it and see how they can help us."

Minister from Labrador

One promise Crosbie made during the Labrador stop was that he'd assign the responsibilities of Labrador and Indigenous affairs to an MHA from Labrador. While not tapping Tobin for the job directly, Crosbie pointed out he is a third-generation Labradorian

"That gives him pretty deep roots," he said.

Tobin listens as Crosbie answers questions in front of the Labrador Health Centre. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"I would give him my resume and I've got a lot of experience," Tobin said, pointing to his work for Keith Russell, the minister of Labrador and Aboriginal affairs in the previous PC government. "We did a lot of great work and I can show him the programs and the policies that we did."

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