Written by Graham Rucker
Attawapiskat a First Nation’s community of about 2,000 people has been shook by a suicide epidemic. Since March 2015, 39 people have attempted to end their lives. This number does not include a suicide pact among 13 youth, including a nine-year-old girl, that was stopped on Tuesday.
A mental health position fully funded by the federal government has been left unfulfilled since last summer. It has been said that the part of the reason the position has not been fulfilled is due to lack of housing. The Weeneebayko Area Health Authority told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday no one applied for the position until this past fall and that candidate fell through after being informed that she would not have access to housing same as the nursing staff, who live on hospital grounds. In early March, with the position still vacant and no other applicants from near or far, the provincial authority approached the previous candidate who applied and told her she would, in fact, be allow her to stay in the nurses’ housing, even if it means a nurse might have to share his or her home when the community is at full staffing.
New workers start on April 18, nine days after 11 people – 10 of them youth – attempted suicide in Attawapiskat on Saturday alone. On Monday, a group of children, including an eight-year-old, were rescued by the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service and brought to the local hospital, where they were treated and assessed amid concerns they were part of a suicide pact and planning to take their lives that night. On Tuesday, several more people were brought to the hospital as part of the suicide crisis, according to Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum, who is currently in Attawapiskat.
While the Nation is in a ‘STATE OF EMERGANCY’ and awaiting assistance, the people of these First Nations are not sitting idly passing time, they are in fact, helping themselves by working on the issues from the inside out. With a shortage of housing, adequate funding for education, healthcare and other programs as the ‘Indian Act’ hovers above them, they work, struggle and strive to come out of the generational oppressed mind-state and place.
Hopefully the First Nation and Aboriginal people of Canada can receive the help which they’ve been promised by this new government. Also when we as a nation understand “The greatest resource we have in this country is not the gold and it is not the oil. It is the children and the day we recognize that is the day that we will be the nation we were meant to be” elegantly said by Ontario MP Charlie Angus at the House of Commons on Tuesday April 12th.