Threatens to shut down Muskrat Falls over youth issues
Natuashish chief Simeon Tshakapesh at Confederation Building. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
After a half hour meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale earlier this afternoon, Mushuau Innu Nation Chief Simeon Tshakapesh gave the Premier an ultimatum on his facebook page.
Tshakapesh is giving the Premier two weeks to improve child protection services in Natuashish, or face a larger protest at confederation building.
“I will give the PREMIER two weeks and CYFS to bring some Child Protection Services in Natuashish Labrador. I will return to confederation building again after two weeks and next time I will ask the mothers and young people and whomever wants to come and support our fight for our children to St'John;s and stay there until we get help for these young Innu Children from Natuashish. JUST TWO WEEKS FROM NOW,” wrote Tshakapesh.
Shortly after his facebook post, Tshakapesh told TC Media that he might also consider organizing a large-scale protest to shut down the Muskrat Falls project, if he doesn’t see the provincial government making significant improvements to child welfare in the community.
“If they don’t do nothing, the people of Natuashish and Sheshatshiu are telling me to shut Muskrat Falls down. I may have to do that,” he said.
“I think we will have a massive protest, on a scale that they will not be able to handle it, because I’ve had enough of this abuse.”
Tshakapesh says that the improvements by the province can come in different forms, such as an addition of more social workers in Natuashish, or for kids to be taken into custody and put in a safe environment.
But Tshakapesh is still insisting that Innu children shouldn’t be taken away from their Innu culture.
Earlier today, Tshakapesh staged a one-person sit-in in the lobby of Confederation building, demanding to meet with Dunderdale to discuss youth issues in Natuashish, especially the gas-sniffing epidemic that is plaguing the small Innu community.
The premier’s office told TC Media that Dunderdale is not doing any media interviews today, but released a brief statement regarding her meeting with Tshakapesh.
“The meeting was productive and the Premier impressed upon the Chief the importance of working together for a solution that protects all children in the community. Currently, the Department of Child Youth and Family Services is working closely with the Band Council to ensure children and youth that have been referred to the department with solvent abuse issues are provided help,” reads the statement.
Natuashish chief Simeon Tshakapesh sits on the floor in Confederation Building in St. John's where he staged a peaceful protest, waiting to meet with Premier Kathy Dunderdale about problems facing youth in his Labrador community.
He told The Telegram, he's been advised he'll get a meeting with Dunderdale around noon today.
"I'm sitting here on behalf of aboriginal youth in Natuashish as well as all of Labrador," Tshakapesh said, with tears in his eyes. "I'm tired of seeing my own families going through this as well … There are services in this province I think we're entitled to ... But it's not happening."
In the meantime, he said, the cycle of substance abuse, including gas sniffing, is continuing. "I want those kids to be safe, in a safe environment," he said.