No clear sign whether or not it will pass
This afternoon, the residents of Sheshatshiu will decide whether or not they want to ban alcohol from their reserve.
© Derek Montague
Residents who are 18 years of age and older can cast their vote on the Band Council’s proposed alcohol ban Friday afternoon, starting at 1 Pm, at the Innu School’s gymnasium.
“I think we want to protect our children,” says the Sheshatshiu Innu Band Council’s Social Health Director, Jack Penashue. “In our community drugs and alcohol are some of the main contributors to unhealthy behaviour.”
“It will be a community decision, not a political decision.”
If the residents of Sheshatshiu vote in favour of the proposed ban called “The Intoxicants Act,” it will prohibit all beer and alcohol products from the reserve.
“You will not be able possess or drink alcohol in the reserve,” says Penashue.
“(Offenders) can be charged. They can be arrested and, obviously, the alcohol can be taken away from them.”
Even if the ban is passed in today’s vote, it remains unclear how it will be enforced. According to Corporal Rick Mills, RCMP Labrador District Media Liaison, Sheshatshiu leaders and the RCMP have not had any major discussions yet on how such a ban will be enforced.
“The RCMP will have to meet with community leaders and figure out best to proceed,” said Mills.
Labrador’s other Innu community, Natuashish, has had an alcohol ban in place for several years. But that community is isolated, and it is easier to monitor supplies that go in and out of the area.
The major hurdle with enforcing an alcohol ban in Sheshatshiu is the reserve’s accessibility. Alcohol is sold less than 40 kilometres away in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and can be easily driven back into the community.
“It’s different from Natuashish, which is a fly-in community,” said Mills.
“There are two entrances into (Sheshatshiu).”
Jack Penashue admits that it will not be easy to enforce an alcohol ban in Sheshatshiu, but believes that everyone must try, for the sake of the community’s future.
“It’s not going to be 100 per cent (fool) proof,” says Penashue.
“We’re trying something new. We don’t know if it’s supported (by the community).”