John Nui re-elected as Mushuau Innu chief, says housing among top priorities

John Nui has been re-elected as the chief of Mushuau Innu First Nation for a third term. (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)
John Nui has been re-elected as the chief of Mushuau Innu First Nation for a third term. (John Gaudi/CBC - image credit)
John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

The chief of Mushuau Innu First Nation, who's held office for the past six years, has now been re-elected for a third term.

John Nui had initially announced that he wouldn't be seeking re-election, but says he received calls from community members encouraging him to run again. Nui says he took that as a sign the people of Natuashish approved of his work over the past six years.

Nui says there are a number of priorities for himself and the newly elected band council, with his top concern being housing.

"We do have to keep in mind that the children will be the priority first. That's why the houses need to be fixed, so there won't be overcrowding in one house," said Nui.

There are currently around 100 people on the waiting list for housing, and Nui says that list is expanding every year because families are growing.

Council this term consists of three men and three women. The last band council had two representatives of each gender.

Nui says he believes adding two extra councillors will generate more ideas among leadership.

Ariana Kelland/CBC
Ariana Kelland/CBC

During the election, Nui spoke to the importance of Natuashish having sober leadership and when asked about keeping alcohol and drugs out of the dry community, said that it's been a struggle.

Some alcohol and drugs brought into the community have been confiscated by the RCMP or Natuashish's community safety officers, says Nui, but adds police can't stop everybody, and are often tasked with ensuring people can travel safely in remote parts of Labrador.

"My staff ... can't be everywhere at the same time. In the winter times they go by skidoo and they're part of the search and rescue team as well, and by boat they have to rely on the people from other communities on the coast to help them out," said Nui.

With the seasons changing and colder temperatures approaching, Nui is concerned about those traveling along the coast in the fall season and people getting storm-bound during the winter.

"It's worrisome. You have to look after your [commmunity safety officers'] safety as well, but at the same time have to try to find those who are storm-bound in other areas … you have to look at all the options that we have to make sure everyone comes home safe," said Nui.

'We're not going to stop people from drinking'

Mushuau Innu First Nation has, in the past, chartered flights to bring community members who make up some of the transient and homeless population in Happy Valley-Goose Bay back to the community.

But Nui says that bringing people back to Natuashish doesn't necessarily mean they will stay.

"We have people in Goose Bay helping us transport them to the Goose Bay airport. You have to make sure that they're being looked after until they get on the flights. When they do, they stay here for a couple of weeks and by the time we know [it] they're in Goose Bay again."

Nui says he's struggling with how to get people to stay in the community and acknowledges council can't stop people from making the decision to drink.

"We have a bylaw here in our community and I think that's something that needs to be respected, because we have a beautiful community.... We don't need to add more stress by bringing more alcohol into our community, because that's not going to work," said Nui.

Nui says council is still thinking about chartering flights in the future to help bring those people home.

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