Yet despite a meeting with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief (whose communities have seen the unnecessary suicide of multiple First Nations youth in recent weeks) no concrete action or commitments have been provided by the Trudeau government to curb the youth Indigenous suicide pandemic.
The 2016 Liberal budget that promised $8.4-billion toward Indigenous peoples was called a “historic” breakthrough and even “activist” by pundits and Indigenous leaders alike. Unfortunately, as demonstrated by new documents shared with CBC News, very little of these promised funds have made it to the communities which need them.
For a Prime Minister who regularly touts his commitment to building a “renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples” Trudeau raised a number of eyebrows at his recent cross-country ‘Listening Tour’ that came to a close on Treaty 1 Territory in Winnipeg (AKA. the “most racist” city in Canada).
Perplexingly, it seems Prime Minister Trudeau has come to the enlightened conclusion that all Indigenous youth need to conquer their suicidal thoughts is somewhere to “store their canoes.”
Now over a year into their mandate, the Trudeau government has already broken a number of promises to Indigenous peoples ― from green-lighting major development projects said to “bulldoze [Indigenous] rights,” to refusing transparency around the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to straight up lying about how many boil water advisories still exist on First Nations reserves. Justifiably, Indigenous communities are pissed.
Undoubtedly the worst failure that’s become impossible to ignore is the Indigenous youth suicide pandemic; a crisis so urgent it’s even captured the attention of International human rights bodies and the Assembly of First Nations. Just last month in Wapekaka, both Chantell Fox, 12, and Jolynn Winter, 10, were the latest in a long line of suicides happening in Indigenous communities across the country.
Despite all the reconciliation rhetoric, yet another generation of First Nations children is being born into abject third-world poverty. Here in one of the richest G8 countries in the world in the last few months alone, dozens of innocent children have tragically ended their lives.
In many of the communities facing disturbingly high youth suicide rates (ie. Nunavut, Attawapiskat and La Ronge), abject poverty and poor living conditions are commonplace. And frankly, poverty is enough to drive anyone toward thoughts of self-harm, no matter what their age or ethnicity. No wonder so many Indigenous youth run away from home to tragically wind up missing or murdered.
When you think about it, what choice do these kids have? Without clean running water to drink, without a reliable doctor, without so much as a warm bed to sleep in at night, who the hell would want to live?
To add insult to injury, the many desperate parents and Chiefs fighting bureaucrats tooth and nail in court on their youths’ behalves are being ignored, patted on the head and brushed aside by the powers that be. Or threatened, apparently, like what we saw in Winnipeg.
Trudeau seems to relish the opportunity to take on his opponents in public spaces by swooping in, looking handsome, snapping selfies and pretending to save the day. Even before he was Prime Minister, he’d awkwardly wade into crowds of protestors to argue with them.
But times are changing. Those once timid opposition voices are getting angrier and smarter ― and they’re growing in size and purpose. And if there’s one issue that’s enough to mobilize even the most apathetic progressive, it’s kids killing themselves.