Monday, April 11, 2016
Why Canadians Need to Rush to the Rescue of Attawapiskat
Attawapiskat, the small First Nation's community on the edge of James Bay, is a place well known to many Canadians.
And sadly for all the wrong reasons.
Five years ago it had to declare a state of emergency to deal with a severe housing crisis.
Now it has had to declare another one, and the reason couldn't be more tragic.
For this isn't just a crisis, it's a human catastrophe.
The chief and council for the Attawapiskat First Nation on remote James Bay have declared a state of emergency, saying they're overwhelmed by the number of attempted suicides in the community. On Saturday night alone, 11 people attempted to take their own lives, Chief Bruce Shisheesh said.
Including Saturday's spate of suicide attempts, a total of 101 people of all ages have tried to kill themselves since September, Shisheesh said, with one person dying. The youngest was 11, the oldest 71.
The four health workers in that community of about 2,000 people are overwhelmed.
"These four workers, crisis workers, are burned out. They can't continue working daily because of the amount of suicides [that] have happened. They're backlogged," said the council's Deputy Grand Chief Rebecca Friday.
"There are no services at the moment, no counsellors in the community."
So the federal and Ontario governments must organize an emergency operation and rush to the rescue of Attawapiskat and its suffering people.
The military should be called upon to build shelters, so all kinds of emergency workers can be rushed in. We need to send in doctors, and nurses, and counsellors.
Because as Charlie Angus points out, like other northern communities, Attawpiskat doesn't have the resources to deal with such a crisis.
"When a young person tries to commit suicide in any suburban school, they send in the resources, they send in the emergency team. There's a standard protocol for response. The northern communities are left on their own," he said. "We don't have the mental health service dollars. We don't have the resources."
But we also need First Nation healers, we need drummers, we need native rap artists, or whatever.
We need to cheer up that sad little community, like it tried to keep the spirit of Christmas alive four years ago.
By dressing up the children as best they could...
And having a local Santa throw presents from the top of a church onto the snow below...
Which was a happy scene of fun and laughter, in a sad and suffering place, I don't think I'll ever forget.
But now of course it's a matter of life and death. And what we can't do is nothing, or just more of the same.
For that wouldn't just be tragic, it would be shameful.
Attawapiskat has suffered enough.
And that's not my Canada...
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