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Former MP Peter Penashue arrested, alleges drug dealing involved in dispute over son's home

Peter Penashue, a former federal cabinet minister, was arrested in Sheshatshiu on Saturday after a dispute outside a home Penashue says is owned by his son. (Piten Penatshuet/Facebook - image credit)
Peter Penashue, a former federal cabinet minister, was arrested in Sheshatshiu on Saturday after a dispute outside a home Penashue says is owned by his son. (Piten Penatshuet/Facebook - image credit)

Former Conservative cabinet minister and MP for Labrador Peter Penashue was arrested Saturday after a long-simmering dispute Penashue claims is fuelled by illicit drug dealing and police inaction.

Penashue says he smashed the windows out of a vehicle parked outside a Sheshatshiu home, in part, because of a dispute over who owns the house.

CBC News has requested clarification on the exact charges from the RCMP.

"I put on Twitter, I said, at 10:30, I'm going to break every window ... just watch how quickly the RCMP come to protect the drug dealers, and sure enough, five minutes later, I'm arrested. It don't take long," Penashue said.

Penashue told CBC he bought the house for his son, Ben, last summer, and Ben moved into the house with his children in September.

However, he said because of issues with drugs and alcohol, Ben agreed to transfer ownership of the home to Jeremy Andrew in January in exchange for about $2,500 worth of cocaine and a promise of about $12,000 more in cash.

"The way it works in Sheshatshiu, the band council owns all the houses in the community, they're all social housing, and so if you give away your house or buy a house, you have to do up a letter and it goes into the band council, and then they recognize the new owners," he said.

Penashue alleges that Andrew is a drug dealer — an allegation that Andrew refutes — and that the change in ownership isn't binding because drugs were involved. Penashue said he has contacted the RCMP, but they didn't respond to his concerns.

Penashue said he asked Andrew to leave the home on Saturday morning, and when Andrew refused to leave, Penashue destroyed the windows in a vehicle outside the home. There was an altercation between Penashue and Andrew, before police showed up and arrested Penashue.

According to Penashue, Ben has left the community for addictions treatment, but the band council still recognizes him as the owner of the home.

"I'm trying to, I guess, help where I can to protect his house because he needs a house, and his family, for when he comes back," he said.

Penashue said drug issues are getting out of hand in Sheshatshiu, with cocaine use becoming more common, and the police aren't stepping in to crack down on it.

"I'm pissed off that the RCMP aren't doing anything about it, no one's doing anything about it," he said.

"The drug dealers have a lot of legal powers, it seems like, and they really take advantage of people. Something has to be done, I get so frustrated, and this morning I was really frustrated seeing what they were doing to my grandchildren's house."

'I have done absolutely nothing wrong'

Andrew, meanwhile, says that ownership of the house was transferred to him in a letter dated Jan. 24, and that everything was done legally. Andrew sent CBC news a copy of the letter, but it is not immediately clear whether the letter is a legally binding document.

Andrew says Ben Penashue transferred ownership of the home to him in this letter.
Andrew says Ben Penashue transferred ownership of the home to him in this letter.

Andrew says Ben Penashue transferred ownership of the home to him in this letter. (Jeremy Andrew)

He said there were no drugs involved.

"He's just making up stuff, there's no proof, there's nothing to say that there's no cocaine or anything," said Andrew.

"He was saying I was selling drugs out of the house, which is completely false. I'm really upset about it."

Penashue and his son have a strained relationship, according to Andrew, and Ben gave Andrew the house because he didn't want to live in a home that was purchased for him by his father.

Andrew described drug issues in Sheshatshiu as "an epidemic," and said that he wasn't selling drugs in the home. He said Penashue went to the house to intimidate him.

"He was an MP at one point, a Conservative MP, I don't even know how you can act like that…. I was scared today. I'm a 38-year-old man that is trying to just live his life, same as everyone else and I had, almost like a mob outside my house today, videoing me," he said.

"Everybody had videos on me, cameras, yelling at me because Peter called them all to get them there and make everybody look like we are the bad ones, but I have done absolutely nothing wrong."

In an email to CBC News, RCMP Spokesperson Glenda Power was not able to immediately provide any additional details on the situation.

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