Suicides in Uashat Mak Mani-utenam: Council Launches An Appeal To Justin Trudeau


Canada NewsWire (Press Release)


The Uashat mak Mani-utenam Council (ITUM) applauds the Quebec government’s decision to hold a public inquest into the causes and circumstances of the October 31, 2015 death of Nadeige Guanish, a young Innu woman from the community. The Council hopes that this announcement will be the first in a series of concrete measures aimed at ending the wave of suicides affecting the Uashat mak Mani-utenam community.

When adjusted for scale, the five suicides in the community last year are equivalent to 12,000 Quebecers. In addition to this tragedy, the community must cope with a number of suicide attempts and the general despair felt by many residents. “Recently, our community has suffered real heartache, with so many premature deaths in such a short period of time. Our sadness knows no bounds. On behalf of the Council and all of the ITUM employees, I would like to express our sympathy for the family and loved ones of Nadeige. The entire community of Uashat mak Mani-utenam is suffering and commiserating. I hope that the coroner’s inquest will shed light on this tragedy and the circumstances surrounding it,” declared Chief Mike McKenzie.

The Council and the family of the young victim are aware that a number of factors contributed to her act of despair. Therefore, they are calling on all of the concerned authorities to reflect on the conditions that lead many young people in the community of Uashat mak Mani-utenam to consider suicide. “Nadeige’s suicide is a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be solved. We have to find solutions to make sure this doesn’t happen again. There have been too many already,” expressedMarie-Luce Jourdain, Nadeige’s aunt and the family spokesperson.

Appeal to the new Canadian Prime Minister

The Uashat mak Mani-utenam Chief is appealing directly to the new Prime Minister of Canada,Justin Trudeau, with an invitation to meet the community to gain firsthand knowledge of the situation. Recalling that Pierre Elliott Trudeau had come to Uashat in 1970 to mark the 100thanniversary of the discovery of iron ore in the Labrador Trough, Chief McKenzie believes that “45 years after his father’s visit, Justin Trudeau should come meet the community and demonstrate that he is prepared to move from words to actions when it comes to Aboriginal issues.”

The Chief also asks the Prime Minister to quickly announce the launch of a public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women, as he promised to do during the campaign. The Chief also asks both levels of government to adopt, without delay, a set of other measures that would respond to a number of problems in the community. In particular, he is requesting:

  • Adequate funding for the Uashat mak Mani-utenam police force (SPUM) to allow it to better meet the needs of the community. The police force is currently underfunded.
  • The creation of a mixed police squad made up of the SPUM, the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP. This would reduce the availability of illicit substances, especially given that Sept-Îles is the transit point for drugs in Eastern Quebec.
  • Support for prevention programmes in the community and programmes aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle.
  • Support for crisis intervention workers and the establishment of a follow-up monitoring programme to prevent relapses and people returning to a state of crisis.
  • Developing channels with partners in the Quebec network for specialized needs.

“We are in a crisis. All authorities must recognize this, and we must work together to solve it quickly. We have to also think about how we can avoid other crises. In the medium term, we therefore have to come up with sustainable strategies to foster the autonomy of our people and embark on the road to individual and collective healing. The residential school at Mani-utenam left deep wounds, and we are still the victims of a paternalistic system that must come to an end,” added Chief McKenzie.

In addition to a national inquiry into the fate of Aboriginal women, ITUM also echoes the call of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador (AFNQL) for a Quebec public inquiry into the systemic issues harming relations between Québec institutions and First Nations, especially with respect to law enforcement.

SOURCE Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (ITUM)