QUEEN’S PARK – NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Sarah Campbell says the Wynne Government needs to act now to prevent future states of emergency in Far Northern communities. Speaking during Question Period, Campbell said that the Premier is aware of the economic and social conditions that have led to communities like the Neskantaga First Nation to declare States of Emergency, yet has refused to act based on jurisdictional grounds.
Wynne Government needs to act now on Suicides
“The community (Neskantaga) attributed these suicides to the social conditions in the community including prescription drug abuse, poor water quality, inadequate policing and lack of access to mental health and addictions workers. Issues that the province has been aware of for years,” stated Campbell. “My question is simple, does the Premier believe First Nations need to declare States of Emergency to access the basic services they deserve?”
Last year another Far Northern community, Attawapiskat, declared a State of Emergency in hopes of obtaining assistance for a housing crisis. At the same time children in Cat Lake wrote open letters to their parents asking them to end the cycle of prescription drug abuse. In 2011, Pikangikum declared a State of Emergency, seeking assistance that would allow it to provide clean drinking water to its residents, while earlier in 2010 Fort Hope sought assistance for prescription drug abuse. Yet the government continues to deal with the problem as if they were isolated issues.
“Neskantaga is not the first community to declare a state of emergency; it is only the latest,” said Campbell. “In 2009, it took the pressure of the NDP to get this government to commit funding for a Payukotayno First Nation suicide prevention program. Yet last year, this government cancelled $1.7 million of that funding, leaving the community without supports.”
Campbell called on the Premier to create a strategy to deal with the challenges remote First Nations face and address the root causes of the problem.
“Will the Premier commit today to address the social conditions existing on all First Nation communities — or does every community need to declare a state of emergency to get basic help from your government?” asked Campbell.