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Gas-Sniffing Kids To Get Help

November 22, 2000

SHESHATSHIU, Newfoundland (AP) _ Health officials removed 12 children addicted to inhaling gasoline fumes from a remote settlement Tuesday, taking them to a military camp for treatment.

Another seven children were named in a court order that allows the Newfoundland provincial government to take the young addicts for treatment.

The case has drawn nationwide attention, highlighting the despair in impoverished Innu communities and the controversial step of the government taking children from their families for treatment.

Gas-sniffing is a common form of substance abuse in poor aboriginal communities. Children steal the gas from vehicles, put in plastic bags and deeply inhale the fumes to dull their senses and awareness of the cold and hunger.

Paul Rich, a chief of the Innu tribe, last week made a public appeal for help in treating as many as 39 gas-addicted children who were not receiving proper assistance in the community of 1,200 located in the Labrador region of Newfoundland, 1,100 miles northeast of Toronto.

Some parents of children identified as addicts opposed any move to take them away from the community for treatment.

``The action is being taken for the safety and well-being of the children,″ Boyd Rowe, chief executive of the provincial Health Labrador Corp., said Tuesday.

After a bus took away 12 of the children named in the court order, local resident Jack Penashue described the situation as ``kind of sad.″

``At the same time I’m relieved they’re going to be watched and away from the cold weather,″ Penashue said. ``They don’t know what they’re about to go through. ... The withdrawal can be tough.″

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