THUNDER BAY – “Suicide, and particularly suicide among First Nation youth, is not a partisan issue – it is a national crisis,” Rafferty said during debate on a Liberal sponsored motion to develop a national suicide prevention strategy. Rafferty emphasized the need for a national strategy for what an “an invisible problem in Canada and an invisible epidemic among First Nation youth.”
New Democrat Member of Parliament John Rafferty (Thunder Bay–Rainy River), spoke in the House of Commons, Tuesday, to again demand action from the federal government on what he is describing as an ‘epidemic’ of suicide among First Nation youth in Canada. Two regional issues are of particular concern to Rafferty, the mysterious deaths of seven First Nation students in Thunder Bay over the last seven years and a rash of suicides at the Pikangikum reserve north of Kenora over the last 20 years, including five youth who took their own lives over this past summer alone.
In his prepared remarks Rafferty thanked Moffat Makuto and the Multicultural Regional Youth Centre of Thunder Bay, and the Multicultural Association of Northwestern Ontario for their work with the youth at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School. Following the debate he noted, “Moffat and his colleagues understand the seriousness of the problem and are engaging with students to identify possible solutions, and I look forward to helping them make life safer for our local youth in any way that I can.”
The RYMC has been on the frontlines of many issues in our community, and are working hard to reach out in the community.
On the issue of the Pikangikum suicides, Rafferty used his speaking spot to educate his fellow parliamentarians on the history of the suicide in the community that is about 250 kilometres north of Kenora. Speaking from a Canada Press report from 2000 on the Pikangikum reserve, Rafferty noted: “It has an eight-year average of 213 suicides per 100,000 people and a nine-year average of 205 per 100,000 people. The latest Pikangikum suicides have sent this year’s rate soaring to 470 deaths per 100,000 people.” Canada’s national suicide rate in 2010 was just 11.9 per 100,000.
Rafferty stated again this week that improving public safety for first nation youth, on and off reserve, will continue to be a major focus of his work in Ottawa over the next four years.