Nova Scotia·Eskasoni Community Bureau

NSLC outlet opening in Eskasoni worries some, but has chief's support

Jay Denny started a petition over planned alcohol sale in Eskasoni, N.S.

'I consider liquor to be poison,' says local petitioning against liquor and cannabis store

An NSLC alcohol and cannabis store is expected to open alongside the community's grocery store and gaming centre on Shore Road later this summer. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

This story is part of a series from CBC's Eskasoni Community Bureau. This series comes from weeks of conversations with community members about what they feel is important to see, hear and read on CBC's platforms.

Meagan Paul is worried what will happen when a liquor store opens up in her home community of Eskasoni, N.S., later this summer.

"That's even going to be a harder and bigger trigger for me," said Paul, who stopped drinking alcohol five years ago. 

"I have so many temptations with wanting to drink and what stops me is it's 25 minutes away. And now it's coming to my community." 

The 31-year-old said her alcohol use began at 15. By the time she reached her late 20s, it had turned into a daily habit.

Paul is worried that more people will fall prey to dangerous drinking, which she said often leads to violence.

Eskasoni mother-of-four Meagan Paul has been sober for five years after she first began drinking as a teenager. She says adding alcohol sales to her community will be a temptation for her and many others. (Submitted by Meagan Paul)

"I'm not alone," Paul said. "There's people in this community that [have] been recovering for ten, 15 years, 20 years. I quit because I went spiraling downhill, [I] almost lost my children. And I nearly killed someone. I threw them down the stairs."

Petition adds hundreds of names

Jay Denny said she was inspired to take action against the community's plan to introduce retail alcohol sales, after having grown up around people who struggle with alcohol use and seeing the damage it caused. 

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. is preparing to offer both alcohol and cannabis sales in Eskasoni and is now renovating space inside a commercial plaza that also houses Eskasoni Foodland, a local gaming centre and two fast food restaurants.

Since June 17, nearly 400 people have signed Denny's petition asking the community to stop alcohol sales in Eskasoni.

"I just think that it's a cash grab for all the wrong reasons," Denny said. 

"The idea of the NSLC right next to the market, which is like our only source of food – where a lot of people go to cash their checks — the idea of the NSLC there, it just makes me really sad and makes me, honestly, makes me sick."

Denny considers alcohol to be far worse than other recreational drugs. 

Jay Denny has started an online petition asking Eskasoni First Nation to halt its proposed alcohol sales, ahead of the opening of an NSLC retail store later this summer. (Submitted by Jay Denny)

"I consider liquor to be poison," said Denny. "It degrades families. It degrades relationships. If you have the trauma that is there before you start drinking, you're going to take that out in ways that you don't mean to." 

Last year, the band signed a five-year deal with the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. to open a provincially regulated alcohol and cannabis outlet on reserve. The construction of the store has already begun and a job fair was recently held. 

Community asked NSLC for outlet

NSLC spokesperson Bev Ware said the opening of the store later this summer follows a request from the community. 

"This store has the support of the chief and the community and we have worked closely with Eskasoni as it seeks to improve economic development," Ware said in an email.

"The intent of this store is to improve service, provide economic opportunity for the community, offer a convenient option for customers and access to a safe, secure supply of beverage alcohol and cannabis."

Eskasoni Foodland. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

Ware said that like other corporate stores around the province, the NSLC will be asking for valid photo ID of anyone who appears to be under the age of 30, and will refuse service to intoxicated customers.

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny refused to comment on the petition, but Jay Denny said there is still time to change the store to make it cannabis only.

"They should really rethink this," Denny said. "I should have made this petition a long time ago, but it's better late than never, especially at the expense of our community."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

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