NEWS

Labrador Innu Kids Sniffing Gas Again To Fight Boredom

06/18/2012 07:53 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT
CP

Parents in the northern Labrador community of Natuashish say about 20 children — some as young as eight years old — are sniffing gas again to get high.

Substance abuse has plagued residents of the community — founded after Davis Inlet residents were moved there in 2002 — for decades. In the 1990s, images of gas-sniffing children were broadcast around the world.

The mother of one of the children sniffing gas this spring said her 13-year-old son has been receiving treatment for substance abuse recently.

"I'm trying to work on it. I’m trying to figure out what I haven’t done. I haven’t yet given up, but it's hard," said Virginia Collins who said two of her son’s uncles grew up sniffing gas and later committed suicide.

Rose Poker’s son, Patrick Toma, has also sniffed gas to get high in the Innu community.

Last December, he returned to Natuashish after spending time at a treatment centre for gas sniffing.

She said she is trying to keep him close to her and he was doing well until about two weeks ago.

"He didn't come home and I even had my daughter and her boyfriend look for him. I got really worried because there are a lot of kids sniffing gas," she told CBC News.

Her son confirmed her fears.

"I got bored so I sniffed gas with [my friends] …got high on gas," said Toma. "You can see happy faces in stuff or a rainbow."

Parents in Natuashish are holding community meetings to look for ways to keep their kids busy.

A multi-million dollar recreation complex opened in Natuashish recently, but Poker said a youth drop-in centre would really help.

Natuashish Chief Simeon Tshakapesh said that's in the works.

In the meantime, Patrick Toma has promised his mother that he'll never sniff gas again.