QUEEN’S PARK – The NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic, and MPP for Kiitwetinoong, Sol Mamakwa, asked the Ford government for assurances that resources are going to First Nations communities to help them prevent more suicides among children and youth.
Mamakwa requested that the Ontario legislature rise for a moment of silence on Thursday in memory of 13-year-old Karlena Kamenawatamin. The teenager died as a result of suicide on Wednesday. She was from Bearskin Lake in the riding of Kiiwetinoong.
“The Chief and the community are concerned that there will be more tragedies like Karlena’s,” said Mamakwa. “This concern is well founded. In 2015, a ten-year-old took her life – this was also in Bearskin Lake.
“What is the government prepared to do to ensure that this pandemic of our young Indigenous people dying by suicide stops once and for all?
Mamakwa said that two years ago the suicide rate for children under the age of 15 in the First Nations communities he represents was 50 times higher than the national average.
“But what has changed since these children died? This is a health crisis. A mental health crisis. An intergenerational trauma crisis. And a housing crisis,” said Mamakwa.
“Karlena – the girl who died this week – lived in a rundown house without electricity.
“What is the premier prepared to do today – long-term – to ensure that the community of Bearskin Lake and other remote communities in Ontario have the resources they need to prevent more deaths of our young people?”
Transcript from Hansard
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Remarks in Oji-Cree.
Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Karlena Kamenawatamin was a 13-year-old girl from Bearskin Lake, a remote fly-in community in my riding. Karlena took her own life early yesterday morning. Now the chief and the community are concerned that there will be more tragedies like Karlena’s. This concern is well founded. In 2015, a 10-year-old girl took her life. This was also in Bearskin Lake.
What is the Premier prepared to do to ensure that these pandemics of our young Indigenous people killing themselves stop once and for all?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The question is to the Premier.
Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Health.
Hon. Christine Elliott: Thank you very much for the question. It is something that we take very seriously on this side of the House, as well. I know that in many Indigenous communities there are no adequate supports for young people for physical or mental health, and mental health is health. That is something that we are going to seriously address as we are filing and completing our system on mental health and addictions.
We know that there are far too many young people who are committing suicide who should have a chance at life. They need a lot of supports. It’s not just health counselling; it’s so much more than that. It’s education; it’s housing; it’s communications with others. There’s lots of work that we need to do.
But I look forward to working with you, to visiting your communities and to understanding from people directly what supports they need. Then we will do our best to make sure that we can provide those supports.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Back to the Premier: Two years ago, the suicide rate for children under the age of 15 in First Nations I represent was 50 times higher than the national average. But what has changed since these children took their own lives? This is a health crisis. This is a mental health crisis. This is an intergenerational trauma crisis. This is a housing crisis.
Karlena, the girl who took her own life yesterday morning, lived in a rundown home, a house without electricity. What is the Premier prepared to do today, long-term, to ensure that the community of Bearskin Lake and other remote communities in Ontario have the resources they need to prevent more deaths of our young people?
Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
Hon. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you very much for your emotional question. I remember sitting in opposition myself, asking questions about suicide prevention.
Yesterday I met with the independent child advocate regarding this specific issue, and last week with the coroner regarding this same issue. This government is committed to working with you and our First Nations in order to put the proper supports in place so that these tragedies don’t continue.
I know when someone loses their life by suicide, when they make that decision, it rocks an entire community. I can understand, just standing here with you, how emotional this is. I’d like to speak with you after question period so that we can make sure that we have a plan in place that fully supports you and helps your community get through this.