OTTAWA – New Democrat Member of Parliament John Rafferty (Thunder Bay–Rainy River), rose in Question Period today to ask the Conservative government about seven unexplained deaths of First Nations’ youth in Thunder Bay and a rash of suicides on the Pikangikum reserve, and what they plan to do to help improve the safety of First Nations’ youth on and off reserves throughout the region and Canada.
“I am quite concerned for the safety of our First Nation’s youth in Thunder Bay in particular. We’ve had seven unexplained deaths in seven years among our First Nation youth, and everyone that I have spoken to in our region wants some answers, and improved public safety for our urban youth,” Rafferty said.
Rafferty’s question also comes after the release of a report by the Chief Coroner of Ontario on a rash of suicides in the Pikangikum First Nation from 2006-2008. “In his report, the Chief Coroner made several explicit recommendations for the federal government so I want to know what they plan to do in response to those important recommendations,” Rafferty said. “Just this summer there has been six more suicides in this community. It is a public safety crisis and the federal government must act immediately.”
In response to Rafferty’s question, Conservative Minister Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, John Duncan (Vancouver Island North) said the government is working on implementing the recommendations of the Chief Coroner’s report, but failed to address the unexplained deaths in Thunder Bay. “I take them at their word, for now, about Pikangikum, but I will continue to press for assistance in investigating the seven unexplained deaths in Thunder Bay, and for improved public safety on and off reserves for our youth,” Rafferty said.