Canadian aboriginal community of 2000 declares state of emergency after 11 attempt suicide

Published 11.04.2016 14:32
Updated 11.04.2016 14:49
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Reuters Photo)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Reuters Photo)

A Canadian aboriginal community of 2,000 people declared a state of emergency on Saturday after 11 of its members tried taking their own lives this month and 28 tried to do so in March, according to a document provided by a local politician.

The declaration was signed by Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the remote northern community of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario. It was provided to Reuters Sunday night by the member of parliament for the area, Charlie Angus, who said in an interview, "This is a systemic crisis affecting the communities."

"There's just not been a serious response from any level of government until now," he said.

Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals, who make up about 4 percent of the country's population, have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

The Canadian Press reported the regional First Nations government was sending a crisis response unit to the community following the declaration on Saturday. The Health Canada federal agency said in a statement it sent two mental health counselors as part of that unit.

Shisheesh and the First Nation's band office could not be immediately reached for comment.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter: "The news from Attawapiskat is heartbreaking. We'll continue to work to improve living conditions for all indigenous peoples."

Another Canadian aboriginal community in the western province of Manitoba appealed for federal aid last month, citing six suicides in two months and 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

The problems plaguing remote indigenous communities gained prominence in January when a gunman killed four people in La Loche, Saskatchewan.

The aboriginal communities and the Federal governments in Canada have a long history of strained relations. Aboriginal communities claim that there are systemic injustices and discrimination against them.

In January 2016, a quasi-judicial Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled on complaint from 2007, saying that the government had discriminated against aboriginal children in funding welfare services for children.

In June 15, a six-year investigation revealed that Canada's policy of forcibly separating aboriginal children from their families and sending them to residential schools amounted to "cultural genocide".

The residential school system, which is no longer functioning, attempted to eradicate the aboriginal culture and to assimilate aboriginal children into mainstream Canada, said the long-awaited report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. According to the report, at least 6,000 children died in the residential schools.

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