Canada sounds alarm on teenage suicides

File photo of a tattered Canadian flag flying over a teepee in Attawapiskat OntarioCanadian legislators told an emergency parliamentary session on Tuesday night that a rash of suicide attempts by aboriginal teenagers in a remote, poverty-stricken community was “completely unacceptable” and vowed steps to keep it from happening again.

Over the past weekend alone, 11 members of the Attawapiskat First Nation community in northern Ontario tried to kill themselves, prompting the chief to declare a state of emergency. Separately, a second group was hospitalized on Monday after suicide attempts.

The incident shocked the country, even though it is used to tragedies involving its 1.4 million aboriginals, who largely live in poverty, have a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said the suicide rates among aboriginal youth were at least 10 times higher than for the general population of young people. Aboriginals make up about 4 percent of Canada’s population.

“It is a staggering reality, it is completely unacceptable … there is nothing more devastating than realizing someone has reached the point of no hope,” she told the emergency debate in the House of Commons.

“Tonight has to be a turning point for us as a country in order to decide together that we will do better,” she said.

Canada’s new Liberal government said last month it would spend an extra C$8.37 billion ($6.54 billion) over five years to help the aboriginal population deal with dire living conditions.

In Attawapiskat, 28 people attempted suicide in March, some of them adults, health officials said. Children as young as 11 were among those who tried to kill themselves during the past few days and police began 24-hour patrols in response to the crisis.

Charlie Angus, a federal legislator from the opposition New Democrats whose constituency includes Attawapiskat, said Canada had betrayed its aboriginal youth.

“The greatest tragedy in this nation is that we would waste a generation of children. What squander of potential,” he said.

“We failed them. It has to stop.”

The federal government and other authorities have sent 18 additional staff to Attawapiskat, including counselors, mental health workers and police.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called the suicide attempts “heartbreaking,” took power last year promising to improve aboriginal living conditions. He did not attend the debate.

The reasons for the attempted suicides are varied, but local leaders point to an underlying despondency and pessimism among their people as well as an increasing number of prescription drug overdoses.

Living in isolated communities with chronic unemployment and crowded housing, some young aboriginals lack clean water but have easy Internet access, giving them a glimpse of affluence in the rest of Canada.

Attawapiskat, 965 km (600 miles) north of Ottawa on James Bay, is only accessible by plane or winter ice road.

“We feel isolated – we don’t feel part of the rest of the world,” said Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, who represents 30 aboriginal communities.

Attawapiskat, which has 2,000 people and is near a diamond mine, has declared five states of emergency since 2006. It previously sounded the alarm over flooding and raw sewage issues, poor drinking water and a housing crisis.

Declaring a state of emergency is a symbolic move and does not legally oblige Ottawa to take action, said a government spokeswoman.

The problems plaguing aboriginals gained prominence in January when a gunman killed four people in La Loche, Saskatchewan. An aboriginal teenager was charged in the shootings.

Legislators complained during the debate that Ottawa had not yet delivered all the extra aid it had promised La Loche.

Another Canadian aboriginal community in the western province of Manitoba reported six suicides in two months and 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

“An individual attempt at suicide is bad enough itself, but if there seems to be a group thing, it’s even more cause for alarm,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations, Canada’s main aboriginal political group.

In 2011, the U.N. special rapporteur for indigenous people said he was “deeply concerned” about living conditions in Attawapiskat.

Resident Jackie Hookimaw-Witt, whose teenage niece committed suicide last autumn, said it was the third attempt for one 13-year-old girl who survived on Saturday. She said the girl had been challenged to kill herself on social media.

In Cross Lake, Manitoba, dozens of people, many of them youths, have attempted suicide this year, said community health director Helga Hamilton. In some cases, teenagers talked about group suicide before trying to kill themselves separately. (Courtesy Reuters)


  1. After four years living in Canada, I found that Canada does not practice what it preaches to the developing countries, in terms of democracy and human rights. The ideology and histories of Australia and Canada are the same. Canada also treats its First Nation badly; and the Canadian government also felt uncomfortable with my writings. Canada allows its First Nation to live in their lands as Australia, but refuses to give ownership to them, in order to control the resources. This tactic allows the Canadian and Australian governments to have full control of the money profited from the sale of indigenous people’s resources. It is all about money and ruling others.

    The Australian Indigenous communities and Canadian First nations remain the most vulnerable sectors of the society throughout Australia and Canada. Some parts of indigenous communities are worse off than the poorest African communities in the remotest regions of Africa. The Australian and Canadian governments still refuses to acknowledge indigenous people as the first inhabitants of Australia and North America through their constitution. Four out of seven indigenous children are damaging their brain by paint and petrol sniffing before they even get into teenage life. Whoever do not get caught in paint and petrol sniffing and got into teenage life get caught in drugs and alcohol. Hardly young indigenous generation pass high school. The Australia’s and North America’s injustice was systematically engineered by the power elites to make sure that indigenous communities won’t progress to have knowledge, in order to control indigenous people’s resources freely.

    It is very apparent that at each historical point in time, indigenous communities have suffered from a deep rooted distrust of giving practical effect to their rights, and the idea of justice. Among Australia’s and North America’s elite today, there is a habit of blaming indigenous communities for their harsh lifestyle in order to hide Australia’s and North America’s injustice. The lack of justice is affecting all citizens; it is especially affecting the white Australians and North Americans ethically. This deficit of justice has impacted the indigenous communities adversely throughout many generations; resulting in physical and psychological torture, enforced separations from their family members and even death. Most importantly, this phenomenon has been manifested not only during the British colonization, but also in the present.

    The Australian and the Canadian governments would not give land rights to indigenous people easily; if they do it defeats the purpose of invading others’ countries to have resources. Canada also treats its First Nation badly. Canada allows its First Nation to live in their lands as Australia, but refuses to give ownership to them, in order to control the resources. This tactic allows the Canadian and Australian governments to have full control of the money profited from the sale of indigenous people’s resources. It is all about money and ruling others.


    The Western governments have created Israel based on the history, and the circumstances of the Jews. However, they have refused do the same for the indigenous people of Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand. We have enough tangible evidence to prove that the indigenous people of Australia, North America and New Zealand were the first inhabitants of Australia, North America and New Zealand more than anyone could ever prove that Israel belongs to the Jews. Clearly, it was easier for the Westerners to create a country for the Jews on others’ homeland to have a Jewish state as “the representatives of the West”, in order to control the Middle East. However, the same people who acknowledge the Jewish state have refused to acknowledge indigenous people in their homeland. It is nothing but a double standard and dirty ethic of the Western governments. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? Obviously, the Westerners who have refused to acknowledge Indigenous people in their homeland for centuries would not have started the Arab Spring for the benefit of the Arabs; they have an ulterior motive.

    The Western Countries are the masters at occupying the high ground, and translating it into great power. In their hands morality becomes a weapon, they wield to attract attention to their cause while distracting attention to others. They make such a show of moral superiority that the others feel ashamed to disagree with them. The Western Countries have killed millions of innocent people, yet they present themselves as moral superiors. In fact, the British knew the meaning of democracy and human rights from the 12th century, but they never practised it while killing millions of innocent people to takeover others’ homelands and resources. They are free to do whatever they want, by waving their magic cards so called “democracy and human rights”. In fact, the Americans, Australians, Canadians and Kiwis do not even live in their own country. If that is the reality then how can they talk more about democracy than others?

    The West pressures and imposes its interests by its fake morality. Who supported the LTTE indirectly through diaspora and allowed the brutal war to go on for decades? Who is demanding war crime probe in Sri Lanka now? What about a genuine war crime probe in Iraq, Afghan, Vietnam, Cambodia etc. Can they acknowledge that Native Americans, Australian aboriginal people, Canadian First Nations and New Zealand Mari people are the true owners of America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand through their constitution? No the white devils won’t acknowledge the truth. If they do, it defeats the purpose of invading those resourceful countries on genocide.


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