An emergency debate was held in the House of Commons Tuesday night on the youth suicide crisis on a northern Ontario reserve.
There have been about 40 attempted suicides on the Attawapiskat First Nation since the beginning of March.
New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes the reserve says the crisis has shocked the world, as attention is drawn to the bleak living conditions of Canada’s indigenous peoples.Angus did not like the suggestion by Conservative MP Rachel Harder of Lethbridge that spending cash isn’t the only answer.
“I’m not convinced that this is about putting another government program in place. I believe this is about creating hope in a generation of people, in a culture of people. I believe that one of the best ways we can do that is by empowering them to take ownership.”
New Democrat Niki Ashton blamed federal politicies for the crisis.
“Let us be clear, that the despair that many people on First Nations face is a direct result of our political and economic policies; policies that have systemically sought to steal the land of indigenous peoples so that governments and corporations can exploit their wealth without consent.
Nearly 20 additional people, including a crisis co-ordinator and a psychologist have been sent to the First Nation, but Health Canada stresses more resources will be needed in the long term.
The chief and council of the Attawapiskat reserve declared a state of emergency Saturday night in the wake of 11 youth suicide attempts in April alone.
Angus told last night’s debate that Canada is failing its indigenous youth, and he hopes this “might be the beginning of a change in our country.”
Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who at one point was Indian Affairs Minister, says the solution for some may be to leave their isolated communities.