NATUASHISH, N.L. – An Innu chief in Labrador who found seven young children sniffing gas in an unsupervised home says he’s seeing more kids being left alone by their parents in the community.
Chief Simeon Tshakapesh of Natuashish said a nine-year-old boy was left by himself for four days when he was discovered Wednesday inhaling gas in a home with six other children no older than 12.
“It’s disgusting,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “Just very young kids sitting on the couch and garbage everywhere.”
The Mounties who responded to the home in the remote reserve said they found two unsecured firearms, ammunition and several lighters at the scene, but no adults.
Police said they couldn’t locate most of the parents of the children, who were taken to other locations for the night.
The RCMP could not be reached for further comment.
Tshakapesh, who went to the home with a mental health worker after receiving a complaint from a resident, said the children were staggering and vomiting after inhaling the fumes.
Last September, police warned that an escalation in gas sniffing in the community involved children as young as seven.
More than 600 residents were moved to Natuashish from Davis Inlet 10 years ago after a video of children sniffing gas made headlines around the world.
Natuashish is officially a dry community under a liquor ban that was upheld by most residents in a vote in 2010, but Tshakapesh said smuggling of alcohol remains a persistent problem.
“There’s not enough bodies to do search and seizure on the booze. It’s hard to enforce.”
He said children are being left alone while their parents go drinking, sometimes in other communities for days at a time.
“It makes me sad and it makes me frustrated.” he said. “This has got to stop somewhere.”