More Attawapiskat kids attempt suicide:chief


ATTAWAPISKAT, Ont. – The chief of a remote northern Ontario First Nation that declared a state of emergency on April 9 says more young people have attempted to take their lives.

Bruce Shisheesh said Saturday on Twitter that five children attempted suicide on Friday evening in Attawapiskat.

“We are grateful for the well wishes for Attawapiskat from around the world as the numbers keep climbing,” Shisheesh tweeted. “5 more children yesterday evening.”

In declaring the emergency, Attawapiskat cited 11 suicide attempts in the month of April and 28 recorded attempts in March.

A few days later, officials thwarted what they called a suicide pact by 13 young aboriginal people, including a nine-year-old.

The MP for the area that includes Attawapiskat, New Democrat Charlie Angus, said the situation in the community is still “very volatile.”

“We are hoping to find a way to get the page turned so we can start to build something positive with the young,” Angus said Saturday in an email.

In a later tweet, Shisheesh said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has confirmed she will visit Attawapiskat on Monday.

Angus said he will be travelling with Bennett when she goes to the community on James Bay.

“Thinking of folks in Attawapiskat tonight, especially the youth. I look forward to being there to talk and listen,” he tweeted Saturday night.

An emergency debate was held in the House of Commons earlier this week about the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, which was called at the request of Angus.

Aboriginal leaders painted a bleak picture of dire and deadly conditions on reserves at a parliamentary committee hearing later in the week. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler urged the federal government to address tragedies playing out on the ground.

His organization, which represents northern Ontario communities, declared a public health emergency in February.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said 18 mental health workers have been sent to Attawapiskat to help with the crisis.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins travelled on Wednesday to Attawapiskat, where he held a three-hour meeting with community leaders and sat down with dozens of young people whose lives have been touched by suicide.

Hoskins said the visit was just as devastating as the years he spent as a doctor in war zones around the world.

The remote First Nation has been beset for years by annual spring flooding, contaminated drinking water and a condemned schoolhouse built on the site of a massive diesel spill.