Thunder Bay

LCBO could do more to stop teens from getting alcohol, employee says

Liquor stores in Thunder Bay could be doing more to stop adults from supplying alcohol to teens in the city, a LCBO employee said at a coroner's inquest on Tuesday.

Liquor store employee who sold alcohol to 'runner' testifies at First Nations student deaths inquest

Former students tell jurors at Thunder Bay inquest that it's easy to find a 'runner' to buy alcohol for minors.

Liquor stores in Thunder Bay could do more to stop adults from supplying alcohol to teens in the city, a LCBO employee said at a coroner's inquest on Tuesday.

Rob Mithrush was testifying at the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay. Six of the seven students who died were teens and alcohol is believed to be a factor in their deaths.

Several former students have testified about the ease with which they found a "runner" — someone who is of age — to buy alcohol for them in the city.

If a customer is "paying with a whole bunch of $5 bills and a bunch of change, you would assume that maybe they're collecting from a whole bunch of people to buy this bottle," Mithrush testified. "So maybe in a situation like that we should be filling out an incident report."

As well, Mithrush said liquor store employees could identify to police someone who is coming in several times in a day while clearly not drinking the alcohol himself.

Mithrush is the cashier who sold more than $70 worth of liquor to a man identified as a runner for teens who were drinking with Reggie Bushie the night the 15-year-old disappeared in 2007. Bushie's body was later found in the McIntyre River.

"That's probably the biggest challenge we face as customer service representatives, identifying runners or second-party purchasers," Mithrush said. "We can assume it's a second-party purchase, but it's hard to prove."

It's not unusual to see customers returning to the liquor store several times a day, he said.

"There are a few people who do come in a lot [who] we know are not runners," Mithrush said. "To say that this person is a runner, we don't want to pigeonhole someone in that manner, or we're trained not to.

"Unfortunately if the person comes in and is of age to buy it, we're trained we're not supposed to be refusing that person," he added.

A man who lived at a boarding home with Reggie Bushie told the inquest in November about the way teens acquire alcohol in the city.

"If you want to make a fast buck, just stand outside a liquor store, find a 14 or 15-year-old, you'll make 10 bucks," Ray Albert testified. "I've never done it, but it's done all the time."

During a break at the inquest, Albert continued talking about the money to be made selling alcohol to minors, estimating up to $800 could be made in a single day.