Eskasoni residents divided about new liquor store coming to community
ESKASONI FIRST NATION, N.S. -- Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island is about to get its first licensed liquor store, however, opinions in the community are split about whether it's a wise move.
"I'm a drug addict myself and alcoholic. I'm on a program now, I'm trying to quit drugs and alcohol," said Eskasoni resident A.J. Simon.
Simon and his friend George Bernard admit they have struggled with substance abuse issues.
They say having easier access to alcohol in the community will make things more difficult for those trying to overcome addiction.
"It's more access for people around here," Bernard said.
An online petition against the liquor store is nearing its goal of 500 signatures, but not everyone thinks it's a bad idea.
"It would be more convenient," said one resident at a home next to the proposed location for the store.
Beverley Ware with the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation says it's about providing the service and convenience customers are looking for.
The alcohol and cannabis store will be in a commercial plaza along Shore Road that already has a Tim Horton’s, a gaming centre and a Foodland grocery store.
Proponents say a NSLC outlet would be another step in economic development in the community, while Ware says the same protocols will be in place as at any of their other outlets.
"We take into account whether it's something that's wanted by the community. In this case, the chief and the council had approached us," Ware said. "We will not serve customers who appear to be impaired. Our employees are trained to recognize and have conversations with our customers to ensure we are conducting sales responsibly."
Currently, the closest NSLC outlet to Eskasoni is at the East Bay Country Market – a more than 40-kilometre round-trip from the Mi’kmaq community.
While there is a NSLC outlet on Paqtnkek First Nation, near Antigonish, N.S., Ware says the store in Eskasoni would be a provincial first in another way.
"This would be the first time that it's a corporate store in a First Nations community," Ware said.
CTV Atlantic tried contacting Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny for comment, but didn’t hear back by publish time.
Meanwhile, despite the debate, the Eskasoni NSLC appears to be a done deal.
Ware says construction, and the hiring process, are already underway and expects the store to open in early September.