Date
28 July 2017
Youths from aboriginal communities make a presentation after a march last week in support of efforts to tackle a sharp rise in suicide rates in Attawapiskat, Ontario. Credit: Reuters
Youths from aboriginal communities make a presentation after a march last week in support of efforts to tackle a sharp rise in suicide rates in Attawapiskat, Ontario. Credit: Reuters

Canada holds emergency meeting over aboriginal suicide crisis

Canada’s lawmakers are holding an emergency meeting to discuss a rash of suicide attempts by aboriginal teenagers in a remote, poverty-stricken community in Ontario.

Authorities are alarmed as 11 people of the Attawapiskat First Nation community tried to kill themselves over the past weekend alone, Reuters reported.

Children as young as 11 years old were among those who attempted suicide during the past few days. Police began 24-hour patrols in response to the crisis.

In March, there were 28 attempted suicides in the aboriginal community. The crisis prompted Attawapiskat to declare a state of emergency.

The reasons for people trying to end their lives are varied but Attawapiskat leaders point to an underlying despondency and pessimism among their people as well as an increasing number of prescription drug overdoses.

Living in isolated communities with chronic unemployment and crowded housing, some young aboriginals lack clean water but have easy Internet access, giving them a glimpse of affluence in the rest of Canada, Reuters noted.

Attawapiskat, 966 kilometers north of Ottawa on James Bay, is only accessible by plane or winter ice road.

Canada’s 1.4 million aboriginals, who make up about four percent of the population, have a lower life expectancy than other Canadians and are more often victims of violent crime.

The emergency parliamentary session Tuesday night was requested by New Democrat legislator Charlie Angus whose constituency includes Attawapiskat.

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