Innu Chief gives premier ultimatum

Derek Montague
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After a half-hour meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale earlier this afternoon, Mushuau Innu First 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.

Simeon Tshakapesh sits in the lobby of the Confederation Building Wednesday morning in hopes of meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale about ongoing gas sniffing problems in Natuashish. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

"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.

'I've had enough of this abuse': Tshakapesh

"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," Tshakapesh 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.

Organizations: Child Protection Services, Department of Child Youth and Family Services, Band Council

Geographic location: Natuashish Labrador, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Herb Morrison
    October 03, 2013 - 10:53

    Chief Tshakapesh needs to decide what should take priority, within the context of the situation. Lets face it, the shocking images of young children either wandering around in a daze or passed out on the hood of a vehicle, because they have been sniffing gasoline; serve as ample proof that these children, like other Innu teen-agers oof past years; are in danger of either self-destructing by committing suicide, or dying from the long term effects of substance abuse. They are in a toxic environment from which they should be removed. Still, Chief Tshakapesh adamently insists that these children not be removed from their hone community lest they lose their cultural identity as Innu people. Apparently the Chief is of the opinion that the Innu children in particular and all Innu people in general should give priority to perserving the Innu way of life despite the fact that, as the recent photos taken in their community demonstrate, remaining in the toxic environment that exists in the community of Natuashish, at the present time, could result in their deaths. ISpeaking for myself, if I were burying my son, the fact that he died attempting to perserve his cultural identity would provide little solace.

  • Larry
    October 03, 2013 - 10:08

    Fix the problems with the parents first if that is possable!! That is the only way of saving the sad.

  • Rick
    October 03, 2013 - 09:36

    It's the parents of these children that need the help. They need to be shown how to be involved in their children's lives.

  • Winston Adams
    October 03, 2013 - 09:08

    I have followed this issue with concern for 30 years and see no progress. I have made some attempts to help but these failed. Perhaps someone out there have better ideas than mine, and the ability to improve the life of these Innu kids and parents. As a desperate attempt to try something new, I hereby offer a prise, a reward, called the "K Prise" to anyone considered to have achieved or attempted to achieve such an improvement. The reward is $10,000.00 cash. The first such award will be presented on the day of the next demonstration. The winner will be selected based on input I receive online send to me to this email address or by mail to 55 Devereaux Lane , Logy Bay , Nfld A1K3A6. Submissions should outline the reasons why the person you nominate for the award is deserving. There is no age limit for receiving the award. Innu kids are encouraged to apply for this or awards that are to follow in the future.

  • Matthew
    October 03, 2013 - 09:02

    Chief Tshakapesh, get your backside off of the Confederation Building memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in the name of the freedom you enjoy. Show some respect.

    • Christine
      October 03, 2013 - 10:10

      Exactly Matthew!!! I was appalled at this lack of respect to our War Dead. And on a cell phone to boot. You lead by example Chief Tshakapesh. That's just how it rolls here. People earn my respect here. I don't just give it away! God bless the children. You have been entrusted with their care and I know it is not an easy job. Prayers to you and yours. Open minds and not ultimatums are what we need if these children are going to flourish.

  • Calvin
    October 03, 2013 - 08:55

    Tshakapesh said it himself, he does not think the children should be taken away from their Innu "culture." And which culture would that be? The generations of gas sniffing families? Give me a break, if you want to put a stop to this, send the children away and let them live a real life. What does he propose government should do? Send a half dozen social workers to the community and deprive the rest of Newfoundland & Labrador children and families of the same services? It is laughable that this man considers that community Innu culture. You want Innu culture? Send the families out to live in the wild with no help from Canadian tax payers. It is really sad that these children are being put through this, but keeping them in the community is not the answer, and until these Innu leaders can accept that, nothing is going to change.

  • Observer
    October 03, 2013 - 08:29

    The only way to protect those children is to get them the heck out of there......permanently! As if THAT'S ever going to happen. All the money in the world is not going to fix this.

  • Guy Incognito
    October 03, 2013 - 08:00

    This guy is in town protesting and demanding help for the children while his own nephew is sprawled on the hood of a truck with a bag of gas in his hand. As he is the leader the community

    • As If
      October 03, 2013 - 09:46

      He went looking for help the day after he found his nephew in that state. And what about the premier who just shrugs everything off as if nothing has anything to do with her?