Tag Archives: Suicide Crisis

‘Do Something Now!’: Indigenous Activists Plead for Action in Youth Suicide Crisis

A group that has been camped out at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada offices for two weeks marched down Yonge St. Friday to demand government action on northern Ontario’s suicide crisis.

Staff | Toronto Star

Beneath Friday’s pouring rain and dark skies, a group of Indigenous women continue the fight against northern Ontario’s suicide crisis outside the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada on St. Clair Ave.

They’ve been at it for more than two weeks. Geoffey Daybutch, who was asked to join the women outside INAC three days earlier to serve as a male voice from the First Nations community, stands guard as a man brushes past him with groceries and tells him to get off the sidewalk.

For Daybutch, this crisis hits close to home.

“The stories that are coming out from the suicide crisis is that some of the older children from the families are making their choice to commit suicide so that the younger kids will have enough food to eat,” he says, struggling to get the words out.

Daybutch is in Toronto because he too made that choice.

“This is a personal thing that I haven’t told anybody here: that’s why I left my home,” he says, tears in his eyes and barely able to talk.

“When we had my youngest brother, I knew we were struggling so I told my family I’ll come down to the city, I’ll leave so that there’s enough food for everyone. I never came up with the choice to off myself. I made the choice to come down south and make a difference and here I am.”

On Friday night, a few dozen activists marched their cause up Yonge St. to the office of Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, in a vigil for the nearly 300 under-20 Indigenous youth who’ve taken their lives in Northern Ontario since 1986.

Once the march began, and two lanes of traffic were blocked, lineups of cars waited patiently while others blared their horns in anger as drum rolls sounded out and flags and signs were carried north on Yonge St.

This is the second time in a year the activists have come to INAC to demand the federal government follow through on an election promise made to address a state of emergency declared last April by the northern Ontario First Nations community of Attawapiskat.

The state of emergency came after 100 people, including children, tried to kill themselves in the community of only 2,000.

On July 24, Indigenous leaders met with the federal government in Ottawa. Another meeting was arranged for September.

Out of the July meeting came four already-promised mental health workers for the northern community of Wapekeka and 20 more for Pikangikum, which is now the suicide capital of the world after five youth suicides last month, according to the vigil’s organizers.

“They have reneged and they’re going to have a meeting in September when they’re finished their holidays and vacation time,” says organizer Sigrid Kneve, two days after someone woke her up in the middle of the night to inform her that another Indigenous youth had taken her life.

This year alone, there have been more than 20 suicides in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which is located in northern Ontario and represents 49 First Nations communities.

“Since that meeting when they decided to have the meeting in September, another young person has killed themselves,” adds Kneve. “We want them to do something now! We don’t understand how it’s out of sight and out of mind.”

Outside their sidewalk tent, Toronto police frequently visit, stopping to check in and make sure they’re OK.

Bennett, too, often meets with them. But they say they are still awaiting action.

“How many young people are going to commit suicide from now until September?” asks Kneve.

For now, Daybutch waits on a sidewalk he has claimed as his own until his friends and family get the support he feels they deserve.

This story originally published Here.

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Trudeau Announces Nearly $70M Over 3 Years For Indigenous Mental Health Services

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, attends a meeting with some 20 youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) in northern Ontario on Monday. (Nishnawbe Aski Nation/Twitter)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, attends a meeting with some 20 youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) in northern Ontario on Monday. (Nishnawbe Aski Nation/Twitter)

Announcement comes ahead of meeting with Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh

CBC News Posted: Jun 13, 2016

The Liberal government will invest nearly $70 million in new funding over three years to address the health and suicide crisis involving Indigenous people living on reserve and in the territories, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today following a meeting with Indigenous youth.

“While we will continue to engage Indigenous partners in finding long-term solutions to these pressing issues, we know that urgent action is needed — and it is needed now — to address the health and mental wellness crises being faced by Indigenous people,” Trudeau said in a written statement Monday afternoon.

The announcement comes as Trudeau is meeting with Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh, whose northern Ontario community has seen multiple cases of youth drug overdoses and suicide attempts in recent months.

The new funding will provide “urgently” needed mental health services while the Trudeau government continues to work Indigenous leaders on a long-term plan.

The new measures include:

  • “Four crisis response teams to provide surge capacity for rapid response services and crisis co-ordination in regions in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut that are identified as having the greatest need.”
  • “An increase in the number of mental wellness teams from 11 to 43 for communities most at risk in order to strengthen community supports.”
  • “Training for existing community-based workers to ensure that care services are provided in a culturally appropriate and competent way.”
  • “The establishment of a 24-hour “culturally safe” crisis response line.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose Timmins-James Bay riding includes Attawapiskat, was invited to take part in the prime minister’s meeting with some 20 youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation from northern Ontario.

“I’m very pleased the prime minister sat down and gave so much time to the Treaty 9 youth. These young people really are ground zero of the catastrophe that is facing Indigenous young people in Canada,” Angus said in a phone interview with CBC News following Trudeau’s announcement.

“It was very moving to see that interaction,” the NDP critic for Indigenous and northern affairs said of the two-hour meeting.

According to Angus, Indigenous youth recounted stories of being denied medical services, of living in overcrowded housing with black mould, of leaving their communities as teenagers to go live in boarding homes.

“They really laid out the substandard inequity that young people are facing and they did it with such dignity,” Angus said.

Angus said today’s announcement is “a good step” but still falls short of the money that should be on the table.

“I’m hopeful but I’m still concerned,” Angus said.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde echoed Angus’ statement in an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

“It’s always a good first step, but we’re always going to keep pushing for long-term sustainable strategies,” Bellegarde said.

“We need at least 80 mental wellness teams. We’re going to start preparing again for next year’s federal budget. That’s what it’s going to take to close the gap.”


Suicide Crisis Protests At Indigenous Affairs Offices Spread Across Canada


Protesters raise an Attawapiskat First Nation flag in the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Toronto. They’ve been occupying the office since mid-morning on April 13. (Simon Dingley/CBC)

CBC News Posted: Apr 15, 2016

#OccupyINAC protesters demand action on suicide crisis

Demonstrators calling themselves #OccupyINAC have taken over two Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices and forced the department to close six more buildings to the public.

The protests began in Toronto, where around 30 people took over part of the Indigenous Affairs office on April 13. One day later, a similar occupation began in the department’s downtown Winnipeg office.

Demonstrations have since been held outside offices in Regina and Gatineau, Que.

In an email to CBC News, a department spokesperson said offices across the country have been affected by the protests.

“In order to ensure the well-being of the public and security of the buildings, INAC regional offices in Toronto and Winnipeg are currently closed. Other INAC regional offices, including Gatineau, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Quebec are currently operating but closed to the public,” the email states.

“We recognize the public’s right to engage in peaceful protests and lawful assembly and are balancing that against the need to ensure public and staff well-being.”

In Winnipeg, the protesters issued a press release demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as protection for lands and waters and the abolition of the Indian Act.. They say colonialism has led to crushing poverty that fuels the suicide crisis in indigenous communities like Attawapiskat, Ont.

“These conditions have existed in our territories for centuries, and the so-called government of Canada administers and benefits from it. These are acts of war, oppression and treason against our ancient treaties. Immediate response is called for,” reads the statement.

In Gatineau, around a dozen security guards kept over 50 protesters out of the Indigenous Affairs building for several hours on Friday, including Jocelyn Iahtail, who said government must do more for her home community, Attawapiskat.

“We need people to have the compassion and kindness to hear the pleas of our people.” she said. “You can’t allow this to continue. And you cannot stay silent. You just can’t stay silent.”

In Gatineau, the protesters vowed to return again when the office opens on Monday.


Northern Manitoba First Nation Healing After Suicide Crisis Wants To Reach Out To Attiwapiskat

A vigil was held in Pimicikamak on Sunday to remember the six people who died by suicide. (Facebook)

A vigil was held in Pimicikamak on Sunday to remember the six people who died by suicide. (Facebook)

CBC News Posted: Apr 13, 2016

One month ago Pimicikamak declared state of emergency after 6 suicide deaths

A youth leader in a Manitoba First Nation is saddened and dismayed to hear that an Ontario First Nation is dealing with a crisis of suicide attempts among youth – similar to what young people in his home community experienced just recently.

“I was shocked,” said Mervin McLeod from Pimicikamak in northern Manitoba, referring to the state of emergency declared in Attawapiskat in northern Ontario.  “I heard this while I was at the candle light vigil on Sunday. I was just shocked and in disbelief.”

The Ontario First Nation’s calls for help come exactly one month after Pimicikamak asked for support to deal with a suicide crisis that took six lives over four months.

Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency on April 9 after 11 suicide attempts in one night.

Pimicikamak still healing

McLeod, who runs a youth group called Project STOP, said people are still trying to heal from the suicide crisis that shook his First Nation in March.

He said while attempts are still happening, no one has died from suicide since the crisis was called.

McLeod said his 15-year-old cousin is among the people who tried to take her own life in the last month. He said he reached out to her and invited her to to join Project STOP.

Mervin McLeod

Mervin McLoed started a youth group in Pimicikamak to show young people that suicide is not the answer. (Jillian Taylor/ CBC)

“I am here. [I am] trying to do my best to help the youth and help my community and raise hope and awareness,” said McLeod. He said he wants to do the same for other communities, including Attiwapiskat.

“It makes me want to jump up and create awareness for reserves that are having a hard time.”

On Wednesday, a group of 30 young people and chaperones leave for a suicide prevention conference in Thompson.

McLeod said they will be taking SafeTALK training, which certifies participants to become a suicide-alert helper.

“We are going to bring back what we learned and teach others in the community, get our own workshop going for suicide prevention,” he said.

McLeod said when the group returns from Thompson, they will also be reaching out to youth in Attawapiskat offer support and hope.

Mood in school hallways improves

Kendall Robinson said there has been a constant stream of role models visiting Pimicikamak since March.

Kendall Robinson

Kendall Robinson and singer Robb Nash in Pimicikamak in March. (Facebook)

He said at first he was worried the attention would stop when the media left, but said that has not happened.

“We had Lisa Muswagon and her group come in, the OCN Blizzard, Robb Nash and his band, Fresh IE and his group,” he said. “It’s been good, it’s kept the kids busy.”

Robinson is the youth co-ordinator  for the Cross Lake Education Authority. He said the mood in the hallways at the schools has improved since four high school students took their own lives earlier this year.

“There are smiles on the kids’ faces, but there are still times where they think about the people, the young people who have passed,” he said.


The Winnipeg International Children’s Festival Circus and Magic Partnership hosted a workshop in Pimicikamak from April 4 to 8. (Kendall Robinson)

Robinson said he thinks the number of suicide attempts have dropped, but doesn’t have any statistics to back up that feeling.

He said things have calmed down in the past month and attributes that to all the visitors.

“They’re keeping busy with all the events and all of the people taking their time to come in and spend time with the kids,” he said.

Robinson said the local crisis workers are still in the school to help the students process their grief. A spokesperson for the province said the Crisis Stabilization Team has left, but the Northern Health Region continues to provide ongoing support as required.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, these resources are available:​