Aboriginal Canadians declare crisis after 11 commit suicide

Canadian aboriginal community declares state of emergency after 11 of its members tried to take their own lives

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (bottom L) and other MP's listen as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine (R) speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 11, 2008.

A Canadian aboriginal community of 2,000 people declared a state of emergency on Saturday after 11 of its members tried taking their own lives this month and 28 tried to do so in March, according to a document provided by a local politician.

The declaration was signed by Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the remote northern community of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario. It was provided to Reuters Sunday night by the member of parliament for the area, Charlie Angus, who said in an interview, "This is a systemic crisis affecting the communities."

"There's just not been a serious response from any level of government until now," he said.

Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals, who make up about 4 percent of the country's population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

The Canadian Press reported the regional First Nations government was sending a crisis response unit to the community following the declaration on Saturday. The Health Canada federal agency said in a statement it sent two mental health counselors as part of that unit.

Shisheesh and the First Nation's band office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter: "The news from Attawapiskat is heartbreaking. We'll continue to work to improve living conditions for all indigenous peoples."

Another Canadian aboriginal community in the western province of Manitoba appealed for federal aid last month, citing six suicides in two months and 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

The problems plaguing remote indigenous communities gained prominence in January when a gunman killed four people in La Loche, Saskatchewan.

TRTWorld, Reuters