State of Emergency – Neskantaga First Nation

Indigenous women Elders The Eagle Feathers and Smudge along with tobacco at City Hall - Image taken with permission
The Eagle Feathers and Smudge along with tobacco at Thunder Bay City Hall - Image taken with permission

Indigenous women Elders The Eagle Feathers and Smudge along with tobacco at City Hall - Image taken with permission
The Eagle Feathers and Smudge along with tobacco at City Hall – Image taken with permission

NESKANTAGA FIRST NATION – Neskantaga First Nation is declaring a state-of-emergency. The declaration comes following another suicide in the community, the second in a matter of a week, and the fourth suicide and seventh sudden and tragic death in a year along with 20 other attempts.

“We have reached a breaking point and our community is under crisis,” said Neskantaga First Nation Councillor Roy Moonias who received word yesterday that a 19-year-old youth took his own life, while the community was putting to rest an individual who passed away under similar circumstances last week.  “Our community is exhausted emotionally and physically as we try to pick up the pieces from these tragic events.”

State of Emergency – Suicides 

Neskantaga First Nation is a remote fly-in community located 480 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay with a population of 421 people – youth making up over 75 per cent of the population.  The community is faced with many challenges including a high rate of prescription drug abuse (approximately 50 per cent of population), issues of sexual abuse, poor water quality (currently under a boil water advisory), inadequate policing services, and having no access to proper mental health and addictions treatments and counselling. 

The community is directly impacted by the Ring of Fire mining development and is facing overwhelming pressures to respond to the ever increasing demands of the mining industry, the provincial government and a flawed federal and provincial environmental assessment. 

The community is calling on all levels of government, health providers, the justice community, social service agencies and families to collectively support Neskantaga First Nation in this crisis situation.

“There are no treatments here, and more and more young people are taking their lives.  This is unacceptable and something must change.  We are getting frustrated and concerned for your young people and entire community that Health Canada has not stepped-up to ensure we have adequate resourcing available to deal with and prevent such crippling incidents from taking place.” said Moonias. 

Neskantaga First Nation requires immediate resourcing to support more policing, and assistance in supplying food, safe water, accommodations and transportation to deal with the influx of support staff coming to the community. 

The community is also prepared to develop a longer term healing strategy but requires the proper assistance to do so.