LAC SEUL FIRST NATION – Emotions were running along with tears at the 43rd Ontario Chiefs Conference held in Lac Seul in mid-June. The news of a suicide in Wapekeka brought the issue of the problems facing northern communities right to the forefront.
Chief Brennan Sainnawap and members of Wapekeka are grieving on loss of another youth in what appears to be a suicide pact with three young people.
The mounting toll of youth suicide had the Chiefs Conference pause to remember and to pray for the family and friends of the young girl.
There have been seventeen youth suicides in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities so far in 2017. The population in those communities is about 45,000.
What appears to be missing in most cases are the needed resources to prevent the youth from feeling so hopeless that they end up seeing suicide as their alternative.
Often communities get crisis workers in after a suicide, but having the prevention resources or having crisis workers in the community long enough to really help is an issue of funding. Chiefs at the Ontario Chief’s Meeting in Lac Seul are sharing that often the problem is not having the resources needed in place.
Elders tell NetNewsLedger the issue is one of not enough spiritual healing. Bringing in traditional medicines, drum ceremonies and getting the youth connected to who they are is often seen as one of the root causes according to one Elder.
Chiefs of Ontario has been advocating the federal and provincial governments for the needed tools to help.
“The most obvious issue facing us is one of ‘relationships’. Broken relationships must be mended – in our families, in our communities and with governments. The undeniable causes of these broken relationships are colonialism and residential schools. As we continue to face the dark past – we will continue to shine a light on our governmental responsibilities, First Nations and colonial governments alike -we are all responsible for fixing these problems,” says Ontario Regional Chief Day.
Timmins James Bay MP Charlie Angus says, “So heartbroken to learn that another child has died in Wapekeka. The government needs to step up and deal with the systemic underfunding of services to First Nation children across Canada”.
The issues with youth were the focus of discussion and resolutions at the Ontario Chiefs Conference.
The ongoing issues with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society brought heated debate directed at the federal government. There have been three rulings from the CHRT to direct the federal government to step up on this issue. So far following the latest directive from the CHRT there has been no real action from the Liberal government.
A resolution was passed in Assembly calling on the Ontario Regional Chief to advocate that the Prime Minister to direct Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development (INAC) to fully comply with all existing and future orders of the CHRT in the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society et al. v Attorney General of Canada.
The resolution also calls on INAC to fund mental health services for children in Ontario.
So far for the most part, there has been far more discussion from the provincial and federal governments than there has been action.