Federal representatives from across the country took part in an emergency debate to discuss the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat. Last night’s debate, which was requested by Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, had the MP’s discuss different long-term solutions. Angus opened the debate with comments on a culture of deniability, and how to move forward.
The debate allowed MP’s to discuss the multiple issues facing First Nation communities across the country. Angus says this is about Canada as a whole, and isn’t a partisan issue. He says as parents and as adults, it’s their primary, fundamental responsibility. He says they can’t use the situation in any cheap partisan manner, and by coming together the government can make a change to what he calls 150 years of systemic discrimination and racist denial.
Angus says a big part of the solution is going to come from talking with the youth in First Nation communities, which might be an opportunity to think outside the box. Angus drew parallels to when the body of Alan Kurdi was found on the shores. He says the world was shocked, and Canadians were shamed. But, he says Canada stood up, saying we will do whatever it takes, and all of civil society came together. And now, Angus says this is our moment.
Angus read from multiple letters sent to him from youth affected by what is called the third world living conditions in the remote First Nation community. He says kids are willing to help, but the government needs to lead the way.
Angus says the government has to close the gap on child welfare, healthcare dollars, and the lack of services. He also says the culture of deniability within the federal government on denying the basic needs of Indigenous children has to stop.
Among the long-term solutions pitched during the debate are putting resources like a mobile crisis unit into the communities. Angus also pointed out the empty healing and treatment centres, saying they are no good unless there is money to pay for staff.
Multiple meetings are set in Attawapiskat today, including with Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins who is flying up to meet with various First Nation leaders.
Below: Charlie Angus reading emotional letters from First Nation children affected by the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat during the debate.