First Nations Move on Youth Suicide

Dennis Franklin Cromarty Orientation includes the memorial walk and service.

Drummers from Dennis Franklin Cromarty School at opening of Youth Centre in Thunder Bay
Drummers from Dennis Franklin Cromarty School at opening of Youth Centre in Thunder Bay

Youth Suicide focus of ‘People’s Inquiry’

MOOSE FACTORY After receiving no government support the Mushkegowuk  First Nations in the James Bay region of Ontario are launching their own “People’s Inquiry” to address the Suicide Crisis troubling their communities.

Grand Chief Stan Louttit
Grand Chief Stan Louttit

“The suicide pandemic we experienced is like a deadly disease that is so unpredictable, hard to understand, very difficult to cure and definitely has been felt in every home throughout our communities” says Grand Chief, Dr. Stan Louttit.

In a difficult 3 year peri od between 2009 and 2011, it is estimated that approximately 600 youth and other community members experienced suicide ideation and more tragically, many children (youth) actually terminated their precious life on earth.

“This suicide pandemic devastated our comm unities and we need to do more resea rch to find the real root causes of this pandemic and we never want our people to go through such a tragedy again” says Mushkegowuk Council’s Deputy Grand Chief Leo Friday.

As a result the Mushkegowuk First Nations decided at a Summit in 2010 to develop an inquiry into the causes of the crises and how they can be addressed.  After spending several years unsuccessfully  applying for Federal and Provincial Government support, the Mus hkegowuk Chiefs decided to proceed  on their own.

The First Nations have raised $226,000 from their communities and from a few donations from corporate partners. Although there is a shortfall in the budget of $46,885 the communities are proceeding.

“On behalf of the youth and our families, I say ‘Thank You very much from the bottom  of my heart’ to all that have provided  their generous financial support so far; and I  challenge those major private and government corporations and businesses operating within  the Mushkegowuk  homelands to step up to the plate to be part of finding the root causes and implementin g long-term solutions to prevent such a pandemic from ever happening again” stated Grand Chief Stan Louttit.

Four respected community members have been selected as Commissioners for the Inquiry, along with a Commission Coordinator.

Dennis Franklin Cromarty Orientation includes the memorial walk and service.The Commissioners will hold two sets of hearings in each of the seven member First Nations in Mushkegowuk Council over the coming year. Despite not having all the funding secured, the seriousness and sense of urgency to start the People’s Inquiry prompted the Council of Chiefs to begin by hiring a Coordinator and four (4) Commissioners as required by the approved terms of reference. The office of the Grand Chief on behalf of the Council of Chiefs and the Omushkego proudly announces the hiring of the following: Lead Commissioner – Mike Metatawabin from Fort Albany First Nation; Elder Commission er – Jackie Fletcher from Missanabie Cree First Nation; Youth Commissioner – Helen Kataquapit from Attawapiskat First Nation and Health & Social Commissioner – Dorinda Vincent from Moose Cree First Nation. The Coordinator is Nellie Trapper from Moose Cree First Nation.

Guided by the terms of reference the Commissioners will conduct 2 separate hearings in each of the seven (7) Mushkegowuk First Nations including the community of Moosonee. The public hearings are scheduled to start in September 2013 and to be completed by March 2014.

“Based on their expertise and knowledge of our people, lands and lifestyles, I am very confident that our Commissioners know how to work with our communities tofind the real root causes and more importantly, to find long term solutions and achieve the objectives of the Peoples’ Inquiry …with these local experts it brings more meaning to the People’s Inquiry” says Chief Rex Knapaysweet of the Fort Albany First Nation.

Interested members of the public may contact the People’s Inquiry Coordinator – Nellie Trapper: nellietrapper@mushkegowuk.ca or call 705-658-5688.

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