New Democrat M-P Charlie Angus says it’s time for Canada to do more for its indigenous communities than just apply Band-Aids and send in emergency flights.
Angus made the comments during an emergency debate in the House of Commons Tuesday night, at which M-P’s stood to express their sympathies, concerns and criticisms about a suicide crisis on northern Ontario’s Attiwapiskat First Nation.
The reserve has seen 39 suicide attempts in six weeks, and a suicide pact involving 13 kids was thwarted Tuesday.
Health Minister Jane Philpott says the government will act, adding it’s “completely unacceptable in a country as rich in resources as Canada young people should get to the point that their life seems worthless.”
The root of the suicide crisis on the remote northern First Nation prompted Georgina Jonibois, New Democrat M-P for the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River to say it’s an issue that strikes close to home for her.
Jolibois told the Commons several of her Saskatchewan family members have committed suicide.
Jolibois says the people have been let down for years.
Experts say a rash of suicide attempts by young people on Ontario’s Attawapiskat reserve appears to be a case of so-called suicide contagion..
They say it’s a chain reaction triggered within the community by abominable living conditions and a shared sense of despair and hopelessness.
Robert Olson at the Centre for Suicide Prevention says choosing to end one’s life is seen as a way to escape severe and unrelenting emotional pain.
Suicide rates among First Nations youth are five to seven times higher than for non-Aboriginal youth.
Meantime, Former prime minister and Indian affairs minister Jean Chretien says the solution to problems on northern First Nations reserves may be that some people will have to leave their isolated communities.
Chretien says he spent a lot of time visiting reserves in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the 1980s, after he left politics temporarily, and that with no economic base for jobs, sometimes First Nations people have to move like anybody else.
(With files from The Canadian Press)