Canada National focus needed on suicide crisis among Indigenous youth: AFN
State of emergency declared on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation after suicides, attempts
State of emergency declared on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation after suicides, attemptsMakwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation leaders say the community needs “immediate relief” after declaring a state of emergency in the wake of several suicides and suicide attempts in recent weeks.
WARNING: story contains descriptions of self-harm which may disturb some readers. If you need help, you can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566. The service is toll free from anywhere in Canada, operates in French and English, 24/7
OTTAWA — The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is calling on the federal government to make up a national suicide-prevention strategy for young people, with a suicide crisis gripping a First Nation in northern Saskatchewan.
Speaking to a special assembly of chiefs from across Canada that began this morning in Ottawa, National Chief Perry Bellegarde said action must be taken to stop Indigenous youths from feeling so hopeless that they are resorting to self-harm.
'We have hope': Ottawa pledges to support First Nations suicide prevention strategies
Canada's Indigenous Services Minister has pledged to financially support suicide prevention strategies for First Nations communities. In that meeting Wednesday morning, Chief Ronald Mitsuing received confirmation from Minister Mark Miller that the federal government would financially support a suicide prevention strategy released last year by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in Saskatchewan.
"We know that too many of our young ones are taking their lives. And so we say to those young people that you're special, you are gifted and you're loved. Never forget that," Bellegarde said.
"We do call on this government to finally work with (our) leadership and families and people to finally implement a youth-suicide-prevention strategy. That is needed — one that supports all of our young people."
The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation at Loon Lake, Sask., has raised concerns in recent weeks about “cluster suicides” in the community, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
Band leaders say eight people, mostly youths, have tried taking their lives since the First Nation declared a state of crisis in mid-November.
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Ken Chan was a quiet man who would help anybody in need, his family says. He was not the type to try to draw attention to himself.Ken Chan was not the type of person to try to draw attention to himself, said Harald Linder, who thinks Chan, his stepfather, suffered from depression and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder.
That came after three deaths by suicide, including one of a 10-year-old girl, over three weeks.
Speaking on behalf of the AFN's youth council, Rosalie LaBillois broke into tears as she talked about her concern for young Indigenous people not only in Saskatchewan, but across Canada.
"We want to commit to making changes for our young people. Because, as leaders, I don't believe we're just here to look pretty. I want to get stuff done. I want to tell you the hard, cold truth that's happening in our communities," she said, as a number of chiefs surrounded her in support.
"Our communities, our homelands, are facing something that's very dark."
Bellegarde also called for more aggressive action on climate change as a way to offer more hope to young people.
Despite almost daily scientific reports being released painting a dire picture for the future of the planet if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to increase, Bellegarde said he believes there is a reason to hope for a positive outcome if governments are willing to work with First Nations on real climate action.
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The legislation passed the committee stage and third reading at the unanimously on Tuesday, to cheers and applause from MLAs on both sides of the house. Bill 41, the UNDRIP bill, has passed Third Reading, and is now "an Act." Huge applause and shouts by MLAs on ALL sides. Passed "without objection", or, in Latin "nemine contradicente". Historic moment. #bcpoli— Keith Baldrey (@keithbaldrey) November 27, 2019 READ MORE: B.C.
"The time is now for bold vision and decisive action," Bellegarde said.
"Their future is in all of our hands and they (youth) are telling us we all need to do better."
New Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is to speak at the event later today, as are NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and B.C. Premier John Horgan.
Several other Liberal cabinet ministers will also address the assembly later this week, including Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister David Lametti and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.
The assembly of chiefs is to discuss political strategy and policy on key issues, including the Trudeau government's pledge to implement a bill harmonizing Canada's laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Events this week will also include conversations among the chiefs and their designated delegates about safety and security concerns for First Nations women, since a national inquiry found earlier this year that violence endured by Indigenous women across Canada amounts to genocide.
Climate change, fiscal relations, economic and social development as well as inherent and treaty rights will also be up for discussion.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2019.
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press
Family calls for inquest into suicide of Indigenous teen in government care .
The circumstances that allowed an Indigenous teenager to take his own life metres from his group home and go undiscovered for months can only be remedied by an inquest from the Ontario coroner, according to a request from the boy's loved ones. Devon Freeman's grandmother and members of the southern Ontario First Nation where he was born said a communication breakdown resulted in a particularly horrifying death for the teen, who died by suicide while under the government's care.
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