Current Reality

“Canada is one of the few developed countries that does not have a national suicide prevention strategy.” Resilience in Life. Executive Summary. January 2021

On Jan. 28, 2021 Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s (NTI) released “2015–16/2016–17 Annual Report on the State of Inuit Culture and Society – Resilience on Life” that focuses on pathways to reducing suicide among Nunavut Inuit. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the territory and remains the most urgent challenge facing Nunavummiut. It is a symptom of wider social and economic inequities that cause distress among too many Nunavut Inuit. This report provides clarity about the causes of suicide risk and explores solutions for reducing suicide through Inuit-specific, evidence-based policy approaches.

  1. Suicide rates among First Nations youth are 5 to 7 times higher than non-Indigenous youth and the Inuit youth suicide rate is 11 times the national average. (Campaign 2000 Eliminate Poverty, Nov, 2016)
  2. The four Inuit regions in Canada (Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik in Northern Quebec, and Nunatsiavut in Northern Labrador), collectively known as Inuit Nunangat, have rates of suicide that range from five to 25 times the rate of suicide for Canada as a whole.
  3. Heath authorities in Nunavik, the Quebec region that is home to the province’s Inuit communities, have already sent extra mental-health resources to one hard hit village, Puvirnituq, a village on the shores of Hudson’s Bay with 1,779 residents that has had at least 10 suicides since the beginning of 2018. (CP Oct. 22, 2018)

“Some of our youth grow up believing that suicide is part of our culture. It is not. It is a symptom of colonization and on-going social and economic inequities that cause distress among too many Nunavut Inuit. Resilience in Life outlines a path forward to wellness based on Inuit-specific, evidence-based policy approaches”, said Eetoolook

The SICS report recommends that governments aim to create social equity among Nunavut Inuit by implementing Article 32 of the Nunavut Agreement to address persistent gaps in areas such as housing, formal education, food security, and health care. NTI encourages the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada take heed to recommendations in the report.  The recommendations will require collaboration, resource sharing and thinking about broad approaches to our shared goal.

Other Suicide Statistics

  1. Suicide rates among First Nations youth are 5 to 7 times higher than non-Indigenous youth and the Inuit youth suicide rate is 11 times the national average. (Campaign 2000 Eliminate Poverty, Nov, 2016)
  2. The four Inuit regions in Canada (Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik in Northern Quebec, and Nunatsiavut in Northern Labrador), collectively known as Inuit Nunangat, have rates of suicide that range from five to 25 times the rate of suicide for Canada as a whole.
  3. Heath authorities in Nunavik, the Quebec region that is home to the province’s Inuit communities, have already sent extra mental-health resources to one hard hit village, Puvirnituq, a village on the shores of Hudson’s Bay with 1,779 residents that has had at least 10 suicides since the beginning of 2018. (CP Oct. 22, 2018)
  4. First Nations suicide rates are three time higher than for non-Indigenous people between 2011 and 2016. (StatsCan 2019)
First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework

Thunderbird Partnership Foundation

The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum is a complex model, rooted in culture and comprised of several layers and elements foundational to supporting First Nations mental wellness. It includes the key themes that emerged through dialogue with partners as well as the social determinants of health that are critical to supporting wellness. e model is supported by a number of partners at several levels, such as: communities, First Nations, regional entities, the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, and private industry. Included in it are a number of elements that support the health system, specifically:

  • governance
  • research
  • workforce development
  • change and risk management
  • self-determination, and
  • performance measurement

The Continuum aims to support all individuals across the lifespan, including those with multiple and complex needs. The centre of the model refers to the interconnection between mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional behaviour—purpose, hope, meaning, and belonging. A balance between all of these elements leads to optimal mental wellness.

Suicide Prevention Initiatives
Assembly of First Nations

AFN will mark World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2017 by focusing on culture as a way to promote life and wellness, shifting the focus from ‘suicide prevention’ to ‘life promotion.’ Part of this effort involves a social media campaign called ‘Culture for Life‘, encouraging First Nations youth to share how they are connecting to their culture. AFN partnered with Thunderbird Partnership Foundation and First Peoples Wellness Circle to promote ‘Culture for Life’, a social media campaign for First Nations youth that encouraged them to highlight the strength that is gained through culture

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission

Sept. 9, 2019 – The AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC have joined the collective, Association québécoise de prévention du suicide (AQPS) to develop a National Suicide Prevention Strategy for First Nations and Inuit. Comprised of organizations working in the areas of suicide prevention and health, the collective aims to convince the Quebec government to adopt an effective national strategy to reduce the suicide rate and ensure accessibility, continuity and quality of services for all population groups, including First Nations and Inuit communities. This process will enable First Nations to create and strengthen partnerships to develop local and regional strategies based on their needs and realities. To achieve this, our actions must include access to quality education, employment with adequate working conditions and housing, as well as the elimination of discrimination and prejudice.

Federal Government

Response to Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

Breaking Point: The Suicide Crisis in Indigenous Communities

The Committee’s recommendations fall under three broad themes:

  • Self-determination and reconciliation
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Mental Health Services

http://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/INAN/Reports/RP8977643/inanrp09/inanrp09-e.pdf

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Suicide Prevention Strategy May 18, 2018

500+ First Nations youth have committed suicide since 2005, 4 x average for non-indigenous. First Nations girls aged 10 to 19 faced a suicide rate 26 times higher than non-First Nations girls in Saskatchewan. The strategy will focus on access to mental health facilities

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations released its suicide prevention strategy that draws on previous efforts from Quebec, Nunavut and U.S. Indigenous communities that have shown promising results.

  • We will take a focused and active approach to suicide prevention
  • We will support community‐led action and build on cultural and community strengths
  • We will invest in the next generation by taking actions to support healthy early childhood development
  • We will better equip children and youth with skills to cope with adverse life events and negative emotions
  • We will strengthen the continuum of culturally appropriate mental health services
  • We will strengthen the continuum of care for substance use and addiction services
  • We will develop a strategy aimed at reducing our high rates of violence and of child sexual abuse
  • We will communicate about prevention and our progress
  • We will support ongoing culturally‐relevant research, monitoring and evaluation
Government of Saskatchewan

May. 2020 – informed by the calls to action and recommendations found in the Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth Special Report “Shhh…Listen!! We Have Something to Say! Youth Voices from the North” (2017, the Provincial Auditor’s Report 2018– Volume 1, Chapter 8, the Provincial Auditor’s Report 2019 – Volume 2, Chapter 24 and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations “Saskatchewan First Nations Suicide Prevention Strategy” (2018).

The five pillars of “Roots of Hope”, a Mental Health Commission of Canada provide a framework and structure for communities to tailor suicide prevention activities and link these activities to community needs and strengths. The actions outlined in Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan are grounded in the five pillar approach developed by the MHCC.

The five pillars of the Saskatchewan plan include:

  • specialized supports
  • training
  • awareness
  • means restriction and means safety and
  • research, surveillance and evaluation.

The Government of Saskatchewan is dedicated to supporting the actions under each pillar for a suicide prevention plan that is comprehensive and effective.

Interim Social Emergencies Response Protocol: Governments of Canada and Ontario

July 24, 2017 – Goal is to delivering faster, more efficient assistance when crises occur:

  • Developing a robust safety strategy for First Nations students attending school in Thunder Bay.
  • Sending 20 mental health counsellors to Pikangikum First Nation to help the community meet its immediate health crisis at a cost of approximately $1.6M.
  • Sending four additional mental health counsellors for Wapekeka First Nation of $200,000
  • Providing more than $200,000 in funding to Wapekeka and Nibinamik for emergency supplies and youth supports.
  • Provided additional crisis funding of $1.2 million for a total of $5 million to support crisis in the north through the Aboriginal Healing and Wellness strategy. A total of $25.7 million is invested by MCSS annually to support mental health and other wellness services in northern communities.
  • Provided more than $480,000 in funding to increase the capacity of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services Unit to improve its ability to provide high quality and timely access to mental health supports for northern First Nations youth.

Will work closely with Indigenous partners, including Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and the federal government to ensure efficient and effective coordination of efforts and resources to address this crisis. We will also establish an Indigenous Youth and Community Wellness Secretariat.

Inuusivut Anninaqtuq Action Plan: 2017 – 2022

Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., RCMP “V Division” Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqatigiit Embrace Life Council

A five-year Nunavut Suicide Prevention Strategy Action Plan announced June 26, 2017 as a co-host of Facebook’s Boost Your Community summit. The action plan defines commitments, outcomes and actions for 2017-2022. As a complement to the action plan, program funding for suicide prevention initiatives was also announced to further build on community led action and priorities. The strategy including $2.8 million in grants and contribution funding to support community-led action. Facebook announced the integration of Health Canada’s national toll-free First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line into its online wellness hub and suicide prevention strategy.

Shared commitments include:

  1. we will take a focused and active approach
  2. we will strengthen mental health services
  3. we will support youth resilience
  4. we will deliver intervention training.
  5. we will support ongoing research, monitoring and evaluation
  6. we will communicate with nunavummiut about prevention and our progress
  7. we will support healthy early childhood development
  8. we will support community-led action

https://www.gov.nu.ca/sites/default/files/inuusivut_anninaqtuq_english.pdf

Mental Health Commission of Canada

Roots for Life is an evidence-informed model launched in 2018 by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and is designed to help communities develop suicide prevention guidelines and tools that meet specific needs. The Roots of Hope project is based on community engagement and input from people with lived experience. It focuses on five pillars:

  • specialized support
  • training and networks
  • public awareness campaigns
  • research; and
  • means safety.

9 provinces and territories participate in Roots for Life

https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/roots-hope/

National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy

In Phase I of NAYSPS (2005-2010), funding under the Strategy flowed from Health Canada to the Health Canada Regional Offices, and then from the Regional Offices to communities or Tribal Councils based on workplans or proposals: 200 First Nations and Inuit suicide prevention projects that ranged from traditional on-the-land activities to the development of local plans and protocols in the event of a suicide crisis

Budget 2010 resulted in an additional $75 million over 5 years to renew the Strategy, allowing First Nations and Inuit communities to continue to address Aboriginal youth suicide. Phase II continues to support First Nations and Inuit communities to design and deliver culturally relevant suicide prevention projects and activities.

https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1576092066815/1576092115467

National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy

The specific objectives and actions fall within six priority areas:

  1. creating social equity,
  2. creating cultural continuity,
  3. nurturing healthy Inuit children from birth,
  4. ensuring access to a continuum of mental wellness services for Inuit,
  5. healing unresolved trauma and grief, and
  6. mobilizing Inuit knowledge for resilience and suicide prevention.
New Brunswick: First Nations Advisory Council to the Child and Youth Advocate’s Youth Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services Review 

No Child Left Behind (Katop Wasis Sesomiw Nokalawin (Wolastoqey) / Mo Nagelameg Neoteetjit Mitjoaatjitj (Mi’gmaq).”

Sept. 14, 2021 – The report includes 13 calls to action by the council aimed at addressing challenges faced by Indigenous children and youth and shortcomings in the provision of mental health services. The report also supports the advocate’s call for a more comprehensive review to identify gaps in mental health services for Indigenous youth.

“Mental health issues among Indigenous peoples are among the most severe of any group and the suicide rates are three times higher than among non-Indigenous groups, with even higher rates within the 15- to 24-year-old Indigenous youth group,” said Roxanne Sappier, co-chair of the First Nations Advisory Council and director of health for the Neqotkuk (Tobique) First Nation. “We need to adapt the approach to suicide prevention to include culturally relevant services and programs.”

One call to action is for Mi’gmaq, Peskotomuhkati and Wolastoqey languages to be formally recognized and supported by provincial legislation, and that Indigenous culture be an important factor in providing mental wellness, health and addiction services for Indigenous youth.

Several calls to action concern the need for more collaboration with provincial and federal governments; more transparency on federal funding administered by the provincial government; and more Indigenous leadership in the province’s allocation of mental health spending as it relates to Indigenous children and youth.

RISING SUN

Arctic Council

Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)

RISING SUN Arctic Council workshop – Review both the Canadian and international communities’ collective understanding of suicide that will ultimately lead to a clear and common understanding of suicide determinants in the Arctic. It will also allow participants to assess activities of the past five years/seven years of evidence gathering and strategies (starting with the Nuuk Conference and up to the more recent development of the RISING SUN Initiative and National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy among others).

The second goal of the Workshop is to jointly determine a format and dissemination strategy that will maximize opportunities for cooperative implementation of the RISING SUN toolkit.

This will take into account current activities underway in the Arctic Council countries that are related to building resilience and preventing suicide. This will also lead to the development of a path forward for future activities under the Arctic Council leadership of Finland’s Chairmanship (2017-2019

https://www.mhinnovation.net/collaborations/rising-sun

Current Problems and Issues with Indigenous suicide

Suicide epidemic in Tataskweyak Cree Nation

July 14, 2021: Global News – Manitoba’s Tataskweyak Cree Nation declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, after nine young people were lost to suicide in the last 14 months alone. They asked federal and provincial authorities for urgent help and “immediate” supports for mental wellness and long-term solutions for its community. The community, which is connected by road to Thompson, has approximately 2,600 people living on reserve, with another 1,300 living off reserve. The First Nation said that they have reached out for mobile crisis teams from the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and the Keewatin Tribal Council, as well as requested help from Health Canada, Indigenous Services, the RCMP and the province of Manitoba.

The community is asking for around-the-clock mental health counselling, a crisis drop-in centre and a commitment to protect young and vulnerable people from illicit drugs and bootlegging. Spence said that there have been several other factors behind the community’s crisis aside from drugs and alcohol. The disruptions from a year of isolation due to COVID-19 lockdowns and the recent discoveries of unmarked burial sites at former residential schools across Canada have had a major impact on the community’s mental health, Tataskweyak Chief Doreen Spence and other community leaders said.

Threat to “Choose Life” funding for Matawa Education and Cree Centre in Thunder Bay

June 30, 2021The Matawa Education and Care Centre (MECC), – formerly, the ‘Matawa Learning Centre,’ yesterday released their report entitled ‘Matawa Education and Care Centre 5th Annual Report on the Seven Youth Inquest – Academic 2020-2021.’ For the first time—it included an alert regarding MECC’s potential inability to meet inquest recommendations 64, 71, 81, 83, 84, 85, 114 as a result of the lack of federal government commitment to funding the Jordan’s Principle and Choose Life programs past March 2022. The continuation of these programs has been advocated over the past number of months and more recently, in a joint Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN), Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) letter to Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller on June 10, 2021.

Impact on First Nations Youth On Reserve: The Government of Canada’s Jordan’s Principle Program and Choose Life Program also fund successful suicide prevention programs and services within each of the following Matawa First Nations in which our students call home:

  • Aroland First Nation
  • Constance Lake First Nation
  • Eabametoong First Nation
  • Ginoogaming First Nation
  • Long Lake 58 First Nation
  • Marten Falls First Nation
  • Neskantaga First Nation
  • Nibinamik First Nation
  • Webequie First Nation

Without this commitment, MECCC will lose the following programs and services for its students:

  • Mental Health Staff and Services;
  • Special Education Staff and Services;
  • Outdoor Education Staff and Services;
  • Elders Program;
  • Cultural Program;
  • Staff Professional Development;
  • Student Education and Training;
  • a partnership with St. Joseph’s Care Group which includes in-school access to a:
    • Clinical Supervisor;
    • Mental Health and Addiction Counsellors;
    • Child and Youth Workers;
    • Nurse Practitioner;
    • Psychologist;
    • Family Therapist and
    • a Psychiatrist.

“It is incumbent upon Canada to provide funding via a stable and predictable mechanism that allows for long term strategic planning and discretionary decision making as stated in Inquest Recommendation #12,” said MECC Principal, Brad Battiston. “Stable reliable funding moving forward will provide adequate academic and mental wellness programming for our students.

http://www.matawa.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/MLC-OCC-Seven-Youth-Inquest-Annual-Report-Academic-2020-2021.pdf

Suicide crisis declared in Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba

May 18, 2021: CTV News – The Chief of Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba has declared a state of emergency following a recent suicide in the community and a subsequent suicide attempt by a child. Redhead said the crisis started when his sister, a mother of four, died by suicide on May 9. He added a seven-year-old child living in the community attempted suicide on Monday, and is now hospitalized and unresponsive. He said the child is not related to his sister.

Redhead said he is concerned about the potential for additional suicides following the two instances. “When we have one, we often see copycats or a domino effect, and we’re concerned about that,” he said.

Redhead said suicide has been an issue in the community. He said when he took office in 2019, a 12-year-old died by suicide that year, and the community stepped up in an attempt to address mental health in the community. “We really try to build our health programs around prevention,” Redhead said. Mobile MKO crisis teams, along with the Keewatin Tribal Council are on their way to the community located about 350 kilometres southeast of Churchill.

“We need the crisis response teams and the medical professionals on the ground to help the affected through this whole process and to ensure they can flag anyone who might be suicidal or have (suicidal) ideation,” Redhead said.

Redhead said the community is calling for outside help because the local health team is fatigued.

“We had multiple natural deaths in the community that affected the health staff, and really the entire community,” Redhead said, noting there was a burial in the community that afternoon, and two more burials coming on Wednesday.

“That overlapping grief for our service providers at the local level is overwhelming.”

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the pandemic has exposed gaps in First Nations health.

“Mental and emotional health is an issue that we need to address, because the youth in our communities are suffering, and they have no one to reach out to,” he said. “I think this pandemic has really shown how deficient we are when it comes to mental health and emotional wellness.

Pillars for Life: Saskatchewan’s Suicide Prevention Strategy” fails Indigenous people

May 13, 2020: The Star Phoenix – Jack Hicks, who helped draft suicide prevention plans for Nunavut and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said the provincial government’s “Pillars for Life” strategy doesn’t have a clear path to implementation and sets goals that are “so vague as to be meaningless.” Hicks said it doesn’t get at the root of why Saskatchewan’s suicide rate, which was roughly double the national average in 2018, is so high in the first place.

Nor does it address the underlying reasons for high suicide rates among northern communities, Indigenous people or youth. The word “trauma” does not appear in the plan, which Hicks takes as a sign that First Nations and Métis concerns are not adequately represented. The document is only eight pages long, three of which are taken up by the bibliography and the introduction. Hicks said it doesn’t get at the root of why Saskatchewan’s suicide rate, which was roughly double the national average in 2018, is so high in the first place.

May 20, 2020: Regina Leader-Post – Given the fact that Saskatchewan has the highest rate of death by suicide of any province in the country, and that the suicide rate is increasing, the document is a travesty. Having read and assessed more than 100 suicide prevention strategies from around the world, I take no pleasure in saying that I have never read anything as weak as Saskatchewan’s. Not even close.” Jack Hicks.

National media attention has alerted Canadians to the gravity of the suicide situation in northern Saskatchewan. Teenage First Nations girls in this province die by suicide at a rate almost 30 times that of their non-Indigenous peers. How is that sharply elevated burden of suffering from a “largely preventable” public health problem not a matter of urgency for our society?

Asked about the province’s failure to act on the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations Suicide Prevention strategy, Minister for Rural and Remote Health Warren Kaeding told a Star Phoenix reporter last week that “Suicide is a provincial concern,” and that “There is no one specific entity that we’re going to be able to fund along that line.” Let us be clear. If white girls in this province had a suicide rate 30 times that of First Nations girls, concerted action would be taken. A very different suicide prevention strategy would have been released, with the funding required to ensure effective implementation. The province’s strategy confirms the ongoing systemic racism in health care in Saskatchewan.

June 19, 2020: CBC – Bill No. 618 — The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act introduced for the second time by NDP MLA Doyle Vermette was defeated by the ruling conservative Saskatchewan Party members who voted unanimously against the measure. “One of the key elements of Doyle’s bill was consultation with First Nations and Métis leadership, with community leadership, with families,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said. “And none of that went into the development of “Pillars of Life”. The bill would have required the provincial government to establish a provincial strategy that recognizes suicide as a not only a mental health issue, but a public health issue as well.

According to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, 2,338 people have died by suicide from 2005 to 2019 in the province. Twenty-eight per cent of those people were Indigenous.

Sept. 13, 2020: CBC – The rejection of Vermette’s proposal led Tristen Durocher to walk 635 kilometers to Regina from Air Ronge in early July to raise awareness about suicide in the province. Once in Regina, he set up a teepee in front of the provincial legislature and started a ceremonial fast. His protest, which he called Walking With Our Angels, was a response to a suicide prevention bill put forward by the NDP that was voted down by the provincial government. He said his stay in front of the Saskatchewan legislature building has been educational.

“I learned a lot about the state of the Canadian public’s attitudes towards Indigenous people,” Durocher said. “And I learned a lot about how unwilling the government is to acknowledge a lot of problems that afflict the northern section of our province.” He added there are a lot of members of the public who are unwilling to “even take a baby step” toward the goal of reconciliation.”Our premier is one of those people because he did speak about reconciliation being a journey, we all need to work together while reconciliation was right across the road,” Durocher said. “And he didn’t do absolutely anything, he sent a few subordinates, he himself didn’t even acknowledge that we exist.”

“Reconciliation was right across the road and he refused to take a single step.”

Among youth aged 10-17 suicide is the # 1 leading cause of death in Manitoba

May 7, 2020 – On national Youth Mental Health Day, the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth released “Stop Giving Me a Number and Start Giving Me a Person: How 22 Girls Illuminate the Cracks in the Manitoba Youth Mental Health and Addiction System”. The report focuses on the suicide of 22 girls aged 11-17 from mostly rural and norther communities between 2013 -2019. 20 of the victims were either First Nations or Métis.

These girls did not have appropriate access to mental health and addictions services where they lived. And as we know from past reports, like The Slow Disappearance of Matthew (February 2020), demand for these provincial services in Winnipeg already outpaces supply,” Penrose said. All of the girls in this report also experienced early childhood traumas, but only three were offered some type of professional trauma-related interventions in their early and middle years.

Similar to the findings of our 22 child death investigations, the Virgo Report repeatedly noted that the availability of, and accessibility to, services in the mental health and addictions systems vary greatly across our province by region. Rural and remote communities throughout Manitoba, for example, experience limited access to services and supports due to their location and the availability of service providers. Of course, these rural. and remote locations, where services are limited or non-existent are also the locations populated by Indigenous Peoples. This leads to unequal access to provincial services, which is a children’s rights issue. This current investigation found that many of the Virgo Report’s criticisms of Manitoba’s youth mental health and addictions system remain true today and are certainly reflected in the stories of the 22 girls which informed this report. These include a lack of access to locally available services, a lack of follow-up support after crisis, service providers not communicating and collaborating to carry out plans, a lack of access to culturally appropriate services, and services that do not match the needs of youth.

  1. Conduct a gap analysis – The province must see what services are available in youth mental health and addictions and release a public framework and its strategic plan for system overhaul.
  2. Demonstrate equitable access to services – The province must spread youth mental health and addictions services throughout Manitoba in any future frameworks or strategic plans.
  3. Train workers on trauma and its effects – The province must provide early childhood trauma education to all government service providers working with children and youth.
  4. Help families learn where the right resources are – The province must conduct and publicize an annual inventory of what therapeutic trauma interventions are available to children and youth in Manitoba, describing whether services require referrals and what their eligibility criteria are.
  5. Create more youth hubs – In keeping with recommendation 4.8 of the Virgo Report, the province must establish more youth hubs outside of Winnipeg, providing access to community-based services like counselling, tutoring and extracurricular activities.
  6. Create “focal points” outside of Winnipeg – In keeping with recommendation 2.11 of the Virgo Report, the province must develop “focal points” outside Winnipeg, so that all Manitobans can have access to urgent and acute mental health and addictions clinicians and other professionals and services closer to their homes.
  7. Create long-term treatment for youth with the highest needs – The province must develop an inpatient or community-based long-term treatment facility that offers stabilization, assessment, treatment and aftercare for youth at the top tier of mental health and addiction service needs.
Lack of federal and provincial assistance in addressing cluster suicides in Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northern Saskatchewan

Dec. 5, 2019: 980 CJME – Canadian Press: Ronald Mitsuing, chief of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in northern Saskatchewan says he is disappointed at the lack of long-term help from the provincial and federal governments to deal with what he says is a suicide crisis. The leaders are concerned about what they are calling “cluster suicides” in their community of Loon Lake, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. They say there have been three suicides, including one by a 10-year-old girl, in three weeks and eight suicide attempts, mostly by young people.

The Opposition NDP has put forward a private member’s bill that would create a suicide prevention strategy. Its leader says the Saskatchewan Party government has failed to act on reducing poverty and developing economic opportunities in the north. Band CEO Barry Mitsuing Chalifoux said an ongoing strategy would better help prevent suicide crises and give local governments ideas on what resources could be of help in their communities. The First Nation wants parenting programs and funding to hire additional supports in order to monitor its youth, he said. In the fall of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called several suicides by children in northern Saskatchewan a tragedy. Four girls between the ages of 10 and 14 had taken their own lives over a short period of time.

Dec. 5, 2019Radio- Canada: Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller told Chief Ronald Mitsuing, that Ottawa would financially support the suicide-prevention strategy released last year by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan…billed as the first “decolonized First Nations-led approach” to suicide prevention and intervention in Canada.

Suicide crisis in the Labrador Innu community of Sheshatshiu after 10 people between ages 12 and 18 attempted suicide. 

Oct. 29, 2019CBC: Chief Eugene Hart declared a suicide crisis in the Labrador Innu community of Sheshatshiu after 10 people between ages 12 and 18 attempted suicide. Those attempts came on the heels of a 20-year-old woman’s drowning death the previous weekend, as well as the loss of 14 community members to natural causes over the last year. Failure to approve funding requests over 20 years ago to build infrastructure and capacity in mental health counselling, social work, education etc. in a community whose average age is now 21, less that 50% of the average age of the broader population of 46.

Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates calls for all levels of government to “take concrete action to prevent youth suicide in Canada”

Sept. 17, 2019 – The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) published “A National Paper on Youth Suicide” that calls on governments at the national, provincial and territorial levels to take concrete action to prevent youth suicide in Canada. Failure to address the multi-faceted issues impacting indigenous communities has led to a suicide epidemic.

The paper consolidates research by the CCCYA members that led to the identification of three broad findings related to youth suicide:

  • the impact of traumatic childhood experiences,
  • the importance of service integration and
  • continuity and how the voices of children and youth needs to be at the front of change.

National Paper on Youth Suicide: Calls to Action

  1. The Government of Canada develop and implement a fully resourced National Suicide Strategy with designated funding to the provinces and territories to create their own, or to support existing strategies where applicable. Whether at the federal, provincial or territorial level, young people must be included in all stages of development and implementation.
  2. The Government of Canada develop and implement a cross-jurisdictional, standardized, data system and to compel provinces in the mandatory reporting of attempted and completed suicide.
  3. The Government of Canada shall engage in meaningful partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities experiencing elevated rates of suicidal behaviour of young people and develop interventions to eliminate these health disparities. This work should draw on the leadership and expertise of Indigenous youth and Elders whenever possible.

mailto:http://www.cccya.ca/Images/english/pdf/CCCYA National Suicide Paper Final September 25 2019.pdf

Lack of access to federal programming to fund prevention resources to address addictions issues

Oct. 30, 2018 – First Nations with addiction challenges only have access to two programs funded by the Government of Canada: the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and the National Youth Solvent Abuse Program. First Nations are currently denied the fiscal resources to construct addiction centres in their Nations due to a moratorium unilaterally placed on them
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Substance abuse is more common in northern and remote communities as a result of a history of colonization, isolation, poverty, and language barriers. These First Nations are also more vulnerable to suicide, violence, and poor performance in schools. The numbers of First Nation citizens that are addicted to a variety of substances are staggering and demonstrate a very tragic situation both on and off reserve. The government needs to live up to its promise of working with First Nations on a ‘nation to nation’ basis.

“The lack of treatment facilities prevents community members from obtaining immediate services for crisis intervention, aftercare, and family support.” Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).