August 23, 2019

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Leaders brew up law to fight super juice

First Nation plan to ban yeast sales has legal hurdles

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2009 (3884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Young aboriginal leaders are floating a request for a provincial law based on racial profiling in a bid to stem suicide and violence fuelled by home brew in their communities.

It's a request that has appalled human rights advocates, who predict the law will never pass.

The Island Lake Regional Youth Council met with provincial cabinet ministers in the fall and asked for a provincewide law prohibiting the sale of brewer's yeast to all First Nations people, said council member Saul Harper.

The race-based prohibition would force Manitoba retailers to ask for identification and refuse First Nations customers trying to buy brewer's yeast, the main ingredient in a potent home brew called super juice.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2009 (3884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Young aboriginal leaders are floating a request for a provincial law based on racial profiling in a bid to stem suicide and violence fuelled by home brew in their communities.

It's a request that has appalled human rights advocates, who predict the law will never pass.

The Island Lake Regional Youth Council met with provincial cabinet ministers in the fall and asked for a provincewide law prohibiting the sale of brewer's yeast to all First Nations people, said council member Saul Harper.

The race-based prohibition would force Manitoba retailers to ask for identification and refuse First Nations customers trying to buy brewer's yeast, the main ingredient in a potent home brew called super juice.

"Get the status cards being checked. The ones that are First Nations status cards, they won't be allowed to serve them," said Harper, 31, who represents Wasagamack First Nation on the four-member council.

Fellow council member Allison McDougall of Red Sucker Lake confirmed the council favoured such a law.

But council member Bobby Monias of Garden Hill — who's also the regional youth adviser for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs — said that while a law targeting all First Nations was discussed, he recognizes the impossibility of the measure. Monias, 28, said he wants a similar provincewide law targeted only at Island Lake members.

"If we say we want to stop all First Nations, we're going to have a lot of conflict from other communities," said Monias. "There's so many First Nations people all across Canada. We can't just say 'OK, you got a status, you can't buy alcohol or anything whatsoever.' "

Dianna Scarth, executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, said a law against selling brewer's yeast to First Nations people would not stand up.

"Under human rights legislation, any kind of public service that is denied on the basis of one of the protected characteristics, and that would include ethnic origin and ancestry, is likely to be found discriminatory."

Requiring retailers to make assumptions about what people will use a product for could also lead to negative stereotyping, Scarth said.

"It's denying something to a human being on the basis of their race," said Damon Johnston, president of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg. "Refusing to sell something to someone on the basis of race is not permissible."

According to Harper, for a short time, one Winnipeg retailer refused to sell brewer's yeast to people with First Nations status cards, and it helped.

"One place was asking for ID. If they saw a First Nations status card, they wouldn't serve them. That's what they did for three months. It kind of helped over here, and it kind of stopped for three months."

The manager of the Sargent Avenue Brewer's Direct — a brewing supply store with four locations in Winnipeg — doesn't want to be put in a position where he might offend customers.

"When you get a person coming in, am I going to start asking everyone who's buying the product are you a First Nations person?" said Sam, who would not give his last name. He said his store has never asked for ID in sales of brewer's yeast.

The Island Lake Regional Youth Council blames super juice for increasing violence in their communities.

"We've had so many super juice-related deaths, I lost count," said Monias. "Super juice suicides, super juice gang violence, beatings. So many other things and super juice was almost always a factor in everything that happened."

Eric Robinson, minister of aboriginal and northern affairs, confirmed that the law was discussed during the last provincial round table with Island Lake Youth Council.

"We're obviously as concerned about the issue as they are, and it's caused a lot of grief in the communities. As to whether you can ban it or not legally, I really don't know."

sean.ledwich@freepress.mb.ca

Super juice, made from brewer's yeast, is a major problem, said Bobby Monias.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Super juice, made from brewer's yeast, is a major problem, said Bobby Monias.

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