QUEEN’S PARK — Sol Mamakwa, MPP for Kiiwetinoong and NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, released the following statement regarding the crisis of First Nations youth suicide in Ontario:
“On November 27, Kerri Lynn Bunting died by suicide in the community of Constance Lake First Nation. She was 13 years old. On November 28, Rydell Mekenak died by suicide in the community of Webequie First Nation. He was 12.
These young people died because they lost hope. They lost hope in our government for failing to respond to the needs of their communities, failing to provide the most basic resources that most communities in Ontario get to take for granted: clean drinking water, safe housing and infrastructure and safe schools.
Youth suicide in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities is a crisis, a long-term problem contributed to by colonialization and its ongoing impacts. The continued neglect of colonial governments in Canada and Ontario means that young people like Rydell, Kerri Lynn and Devon Freeman — a First Nations youth who died by suicide while in the child welfare system, and who was not found for seven months – keep falling through the cracks.
The approaches that the Conservative government is taking to address the crisis of First Nations youth suicide aren’t sufficient, and fail to reflect the unique needs of First Nations communities.
Suicide and self-inflected injuries are the leading cause of death for First Nations youth, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s report in 2016.
As early as 2011, Ontario was advised to adopt a coordinated inter-ministerial approach to the issue, and has failed to do so. The need for a specific strategy for First Nations people that builds mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being in our communities is urgent.
The Liberals failed to consider our communities’ needs. Today, I’m calling on the Premier and his government to establish dedicated resources and a specialized strategy to address suicide among First Nations youth. This is a commitment that will save lives. I call on him to make this commitment today.
First Nations youth are suffering and dying, and they deserve so much better.”