Natuashish votes to keep alcohol ban

Residents of the Natuashish, Labrador, Innu reserve have voted to keep a ban on alcohol in their community.

Band manager says chief 'changed his tune every 5 minutes,' should resign

Residents of the Natuashish, Labrador, Innu reserve have voted to keep a ban on alcohol in their community.

More than 300 votes were cast, with 188 people voting in favour of maintaining the ban and 125 voting to get rid of it. Three ballots were spoiled. There are more than 725 people in Natuashish, but hundreds of them are under the age of 18.

Natuashish Band Chief Simeon Tshakapesh, 42, told CBC News it's a good result.

"The number is really big. So I am really pleased with it, and the council is really pleased with it," he said Friday.

Tshakapesh, 42, who won an election earlier this month to become community's chief, initially said he would instruct the RCMP to stop enforcing the ban.

In early March, Tshakapesh told CBC News that  the band council had decided to suspend enforcement of the ban.

Days later, his message changed. Tshakapesh said he would let the residents of Natuashish decide the fate of the ban. Last Tuesday, he held a day-long, public meeting to discuss the alcohol ban.

After the results of the vote were made public Friday, Natuashish's band manager called on the new chief and the entire council to step down.

"I see this as a non-confidence vote, and I think they should resign," said Katie Rich, "[Tshakapesh] changed his tune every five minutes, and I have no confidence in the chief and council."

The ban has been divisive since it was enacted two years ago. The vote at that time was held in public at the community gymnasium, with ban supporters standing on one side of the room, and opponents on the other. The ban supporters won by a narrow margin.

Tshakapesh said a secret ballot should have been used for the vote.

RCMP officials told CBC News that crime in the Innu community has dropped dramatically since the alcohol ban was imposed.

Substance abuse has been a chronic problem for Natuashish residents for many years. The community was founded in 2002 after residents left Davis Inlet, N.L., a village that became internationally notorious after images of gas-sniffing children were broadcast around the world.