Canada’s indigenous declare state of emergency after suicides

Canadian Aboriginal community calls for government action after six suicides in two months

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

A file photo of Trudeau addressed the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec.

A Canadian Aboriginal community of Cross Lake Cree, located in the north of Manitoba, declared a state of emergency after six suicides took place in two months and 140 suicide attempts in the last two weeks alone.

Cross Lake is roughly 500 km north of Winnipeg with a population of more than 8,300 people and is the third largest Aboriginal community in the western province of Manitoba.

Shirley Robinson, acting chief of Cross Lake, said that she hopes the state of emergency will prompt the federal government to send more qualified short-term health workers to address the suicides and attempts at self-harm.

"We've been utilising all our frontline workers: nurses, doctors, school teachers and local clergy, but we don't have enough manpower to reach out to everyone.”

The crisis on indigenous reserves was highlighted on January, 2016 by a school shooting in the remote northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche. A 17-year-old boy has been charged in the death of four people.

Robinson, whose cousin was the latest person to commit suicide, said that her community has an unemployment rate of 80 percent, and added housing is "neither safe nor healthy" in the town, with one case of as many as 27 people living in one house.

Robinson is working with the Canadian government to try and resolve the housing and employment issues. She said only one health worker has been sent to address the crisis.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said officials have reached out to offer assistance, "and will work with the community to help address their mental health needs in this difficult time," a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Elected last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had vowed to repair relations with Canada’s indigenous people, deal with high levels of poverty, crime, bad housing and poor health among Aboriginals, who make up 4 percent of the country's 36 million population.

Aboriginals have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians, and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

TRTWorld and agencies