Chief John Kitchen of Waswanipi was taken into police custody the morning of July 21 after a van he was driving went off the highway near the Band Council office and local grocery store.

Kitchen was taken by Waswanipi police to Chibougamau for a breathalyzer. Sources said he registered over the legal alcohol limit.

The Quebec prosecutor’s office in Amos is now studying whether to lay drinking-and-driving charges.

Three passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the accident, which occurred just outside the Waswanipi boundary at around 4 a.m. No one was injured. Soon after, local police happened upon the scene. The next day, the van was hauled out of the ditch as local residents watched.

Kitchen was reluctant to discuss the incident.

“That’s personal,” he said. “That’s Waswanipi’s problem, not the whole nation’s problem.” He said that in other cases of impaired driving and lesser traffic violations, local residents have gotten off with just a warning. “I believe everybody should be treated equally.” He said the incident will be discussed at Waswanipi’s next general assembly.

“There is a lesson to be learned,” said Kitchen—“not to drink and drive. Everybody does it. Kids do it, adults do it. As a leader, you have to give an example…

“But it’s not that simple to be a leader.” The incident occurred not long after the Chief announced a new bylaw to crack down on drug and alcohol-related offenses. Waswanipi households were informed of the bylaw through a community-wide mailing and a message on the local TV channel.

A prosecutor won’t review the case until Sept. 5, said attorney Catherine Sirois of the Amos prosecutors’ office, which has jurisdiction over James Bay. She said no prosecutor was available for cases in James Bay during July and August. The prosecutor will take one to two months to decide if charges will be laid.