THUNDER BAY – Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth echoed Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler’s call for immediate action to address the crisis facing First Nations communities that are grappling with an increasing number of suicides. The comments were made following the release of a new report, “The People’s Inquiry on Suicide” by the Mushkegowuk Council which was presented today to NAN leaders.
“My Office fully supports NAN in its call to action to save the lives of indigenous children and youth in its territory, and support reeling and battered communities that are struggling with the impact of youth suicide. The death of one child by suicide is heartbreaking. The death of several children by suicide is unfathomable,” said Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Irwin Elman. “We must act now, at all levels of government, and in partnership with NAN.”
Approximately 500 suicides were committed across NAN First Nations from 1986 to 2016. An estimated 70 suicides were by children between the ages of 10-14 and nearly 200 were by youth aged 15-20.
“Our province finds itself in a moment today where we can demonstrate our commitment to reconciliation. I urge the Premier to reach out quickly with all of the necessary resources to stem this crisis that exists across First Nations communities and develop a long-term strategy that will prevent the need for another report or call to action in the future. I am convinced that should the Premier take this step the entire province and country will follow. The time to act is now,” said Elman.
In 2014, the Provincial Advocate’s Office worked with First Nations youth to launch “Feathers of Hope” – a powerful movement to elevate the voices of First Nations youth from across northern Ontario. The Feathers of Hope Action Plan highlights the devastating impact of teen suicide on families and their communities and the need to improve the conditions to end the current cycle of hopelessness facing First Nations youth.