Dangerous situation rapidly getting worse

Bob
Bob Wakeham
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

If the consequences of the decidedly unsuccessful efforts to sober up much of the adult population of Davis Inlet and now Natuashish weren't so profoundly sad, the bizarre turns in this epic and tragic journey would provide endless material for a skit on "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," especially that routine with the buckskin-clad Cathy Jones doing her satirical aboriginal routine beside a roaring fire.

But - and this is a dramatic understatement - there is absolutely nothing funny about the torment that has afflicted that Labrador community.

If the consequences of the decidedly unsuccessful efforts to sober up much of the adult population of Davis Inlet and now Natuashish weren't so profoundly sad, the bizarre turns in this epic and tragic journey would provide endless material for a skit on "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," especially that routine with the buckskin-clad Cathy Jones doing her satirical aboriginal routine beside a roaring fire.

But - and this is a dramatic understatement - there is absolutely nothing funny about the torment that has afflicted that Labrador community.

Mind-boggling

The latest news, though, is still mind-boggling: the newly elected band chief in Natuashish, Simeon Tshakapesh, unilaterally announ-ces he's lifting the ban on alcohol, the RCMP responds by saying it will continue to prosecute users and sellers of booze because a referendum is needed to reverse the prohibition; then Tshakapesh says he was misquoted, and that he's merely "suspending the ban," an immediate suspension, of course, that will stay in place until a public meeting takes place, one to which he's invited just about everybody and their mother.

Well, Tshakapesh can utilize all the semantics he wishes. The message is unambiguous: he wants the ban on booze eliminated before one more 40-ouncer of rum is secretly downed.

Crime rates falling

Meanwhile, the Mounties, caught smack in the middle of this long-standing problem of alcohol abuse, and its appalling sidebars of sexual and physical abuse, are telling us the level of violence has dropped almost 50 per cent since the ban was put in place.

Which obviously begs a host of questions.

Why, first of all, would anyone selling himself as a leader of a group of people torn apart by alcoholism want to see booze resume its destructive, tornado-like impact on Natuashish?

Is it because it was a commitment he made to voters during the election, part of his efforts to become chief? If so, it will certainly go down as one of the most warped and twisted of campaign promises in any election, anywhere, anytime, given its potentially deadly repercussions.

Or did the recent charge against Tshakapesh himself of drinking booze illegally play a role?

Or are we to give Tshakapesh the benefit of the doubt and speculate that he was sick of seeing bootleggers making a small fortune in the town since the ban went into place, and that if there was to be alcohol sold in the community, its distribution should at least be regulated?

I don't honestly know, and I guess you'd have to live and/or work in Natuashish to really get an up-close and personal assessment of these latest developments.

But even from the outside, it's obvious that this sobering-up process has been an incredible screw-up from the outset, and that most of the efforts to bring some semblance of sobriety, first to Davis Inlet and now to Natuashish, have been misguided, at best.

There's no doubt that the genesis of the alcohol disaster resulted from the absolutely soulless decision by governments to move the Innu into what became the societal cesspool of Davis Inlet.

Quick-fix failure

But it was the attempt at a superficial, quick fix (and an unbelievably expensive one at that), a way to ease the government and non-aboriginal conscience, the move of the Innu, lock, stock and barrel, to the newly constructed Natuashish, that really exemplified the ass-backwards approach to sobriety.

It's labelled the "geographical cure" in rehabilitation parlance, and its record of success, for whites and natives alike, is poor. Put simply: the alcoholism made the same trip as the Ski-Doos and the cable televisions.

No matter how this latest debate over a ban works itself out, rehabilitative resources of monumental proportion have to be established in the community.

And equally as important, the boozers in Natuashish have to stop blaming others for their addiction (another standard ploy of the alcoholic); it's gotten awfully tiresome, as has the political correctness that has always clouded this issue.

There are clearly drunks in Natuashish, dangerous to themselves, even more dangerous to their families.

And they have to accept the responsibility to sober up.

For the sake of their children, if nothing else.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: RCMP, Ski-Doos

Geographic location: Natuashish, Davis Inlet, Newfoundland and Labrador

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Minister Felix Collins said and I am paraphrasing -- That government's hands are tied on this one --- . Doesn't the NLC stand to lose , loss of revenue is loss of revenue. It appears that this government is shirking its social obligation to the Innu . But then again how can you exercise power over an autonomous people . The social fabric of the Innu people was in tatters when the community took the bold step to ban alcohol . Not surprising to anyone is the reduction of alcohol related crimes and the increase of the intangible benefits of self-awareness , self-respect and general wellbeing . These people were on the verge of realizing the benefits that come from self-determination . This first step is by far the most difficult . Old stereotypes , habits and behaviour have to be confronted and dispatched . This momentous task requires the immediate support from the people of this province .

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Minister Felix Collins said and I am paraphrasing -- That government's hands are tied on this one --- . Doesn't the NLC stand to lose , loss of revenue is loss of revenue. It appears that this government is shirking its social obligation to the Innu . But then again how can you exercise power over an autonomous people . The social fabric of the Innu people was in tatters when the community took the bold step to ban alcohol . Not surprising to anyone is the reduction of alcohol related crimes and the increase of the intangible benefits of self-awareness , self-respect and general wellbeing . These people were on the verge of realizing the benefits that come from self-determination . This first step is by far the most difficult . Old stereotypes , habits and behaviour have to be confronted and dispatched . This momentous task requires the immediate support from the people of this province .