Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Canadian indigenous community declares state of emergency over suicides

 David Leveille:
Members of the "Omushkegowuk Walkers" and their supporters march toward Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 24, 2014. The group walked approximately 1,056 miles from the Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario to Ottawa to raise awareness about First Nations treaty rights.
Chris WattieReuters:
Since last September, there have been 100 suicide attempts in the Northern Ontario town of Attawapiskat, and the First Nations community has declared a state of emergency.
“We live in such an impoverished environment, it seems like so much despair, and at times it just seems hopeless,” says Jackie Hookimaw, who lives there. “We’re getting sick from poor water, and poor living conditions. We're depressed and stressed out.”
But Hookimaw says this past weekend was overwhelming and scary.
“I heard that there were young kids that went outside the community, to the outskirts, and they wanted to hang themselves," she says. "Somebody spotted them in time and the police were informed, and they were picked up right away."
"They tried to hang themselves.”
Life in the remote community of 2,000 residents is tough. Hookimaw says some of her neighbors rely on hunting and fishing to make it through the harsh winters. They hunt geese, moose and caribou, and fish in the Attawapiskat River.

Some researchers have suggested that self-inflicted injuries are among the leading causes of death among First Nations people, and that states of emergency like this latest one in Attawapiskat are not new.
Hookimaw’s great-niece, Sheridan, took her own life last year. She was only 13. Since then, there's been an alarming number of suicide attempts.
“Canada needs to act upon this and do something," Hookimaw says. "This cannot be tolerated any more.”
Canada's health minister called the current crisis "one of the most serious and pressing tragedies" facing Canada. She sent an emergency team of social workers and grief counsellors to the town. There’s been speculation in the media that drug abuse, bullying, and physical and sexual abuse have contributed to Attawapiskat's wave of suicide attempts.

Amy Hookimaw, another relative of Jackie's, posted this on Facebook:
The news from Attawapiskat is provoking much consternation, and may spur a national conversation about higher rates of poverty, addiction and incarceration associated with many of Canada’s First Nations communities, and their higher rates of suicide.
Ontario's Regional Chief Isadore Day, who oversees health policies for the Assembly of First Nations, told the CBC that Attawapiskat requires immediate intervention: "What needs to be done is investment and a sustained approach to not just deal with the immediate impact or situation, but we need to get to the root cause and figure out what's really going on."
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the situation "heartbreaking":

Canada’s 1.4 million indigenous people make up about 4 percent of the country's population. Local First Nations representative Charlie Angus says indigenous communities need aid.
"If these were non-aboriginal children, all the resources would be in their schools," he says. "When they’re aboriginal children, well, hey, you can take a number and stand in line. And meanwhile, kids are dying every day."
This story was first published on PRI.org.

 This most tragic situation is Canada's shame. We are quick to respond to catastrophes in other countries, to look good in the eyes of the world, but let our own people's suffering continue unabated. Don't just send councilors, send money and clean water technologists and equipment. Also materials and construction crews to build schools and clinics and above all, health care providers and doctors. The young people also deserve a chance for higher education so they can improve the lot of their people or just get out of there and make their own way in the world. And we should  provide the financial assistance to make that possible. Why don't more people speak up for them? Is it our guilty secret? I am starting to believe so.


  1. Bravo ,
    I love your byline to this story , glad you put it here ...
    I hate to say this , the First Nations are the true Canadians ... like the Indians are in America .
    Why do we just heard about this ... hell this has been going on for some time ... if the media hadn't brought it to our attention , it would still be in the dark ... like Cosby's shit .
    PIC , they are poor people , they are treated like blacks here ... I do so hope the media stay with this .
    I asked Claude ... he said he has heard bits and pieces , nothing positive since the school incident last year .
    Keep your eyes peeled for further news , I will do the same and if something I post catch your fancy , get it .
    Love PIC

  2. This situation was swept under the rug by Harper and his cronies for years. They always knew about it and did nothing.
    All we can do is keep bringing it to public attention like the aboriginals are trying to do. Where is our humanity and compassion. I have trouble believing this happened in my country. They are so far north in a barren place that no one visits and are easy to forget.
    Good article. I was happy to steal it
    Love ya


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