FSIN wants province to close liquor stores out of bootlegging fears

“We know our communities are in crisis and doing their best to respond to their pandemic plans”

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and several chiefs are demanding that the province of Saskatchewan close all liquor stories for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

At the moment, liquor stores, along with grocery stores and pharmacies are considered essential services.

“We know our communities are in crisis and doing their best to respond to their pandemic plans – but I think where the frustration is with leadership and community, some members are not complying and continue to gather,” said FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear. “Having house parties and these types of events are still taking place.”

The lockdown on communities is increasing bootlegging and unnecessary contact said the chiefs.

Saskatchewan currently has five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in four communities.

Wally Burns, chief of the James Smith Cree Nation says his community has one of them.

He said he supports the FSIN and other chiefs who want to close the liquor stores.

“I am hearing from my security that my people phone in then they drive they try sneak off the reserve some succeed some didn’t,” he said.

“They didn’t leave the reserve that’s the thing they are finding ways to have people come with ATV or Ski Doos things like that.”

Bear said she realizes that there are people with addictions and to cut them off completely could be unhealthy.

But she said the alternative is worse.

“In our communities we know there are so many that are wounded with alcoholism,” she said. “That’s a problem with essential services being put on pause now we are looking at the issue of withdrawals and not having that capacity there and the limited resources… there’s two sides of the coin on this one.

“I am not promoting keeping liquor stores open but we do have another issue at hand on top of covid the withdrawals and lack of treatment centres.”

APTN News requested a comment from the provincial government but calls were not returned.

Reporter / Saskatoon

Priscilla is Cree and a member of Mistawasis Nehiyawak in Saskatchewan. She has worked with APTN National News in the past as a reporter in Winnipeg, host for an entertainment segment, and the 2010 Winter Olympics. Wolf is an alumni of the INCA –Indian Communications Arts Program at FNUC & has a BA of Indigenous Studies from the University of Regina. She brings over ten years of experience working in media across the prairie provinces.