Attawapiskat emergency debate to be held by MPs this evening
The House of Commons will hold an emergency debate this evening over “the gravity” of the many suicide attempts on the northern Ontario First Nation reserve of Attawapiskat.
Members of Parliament will address the crisis during the debate scheduled to begin at approximately 6:40 p.m. ET and expected to last until midnight.
The request for an emergency debate comes as Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh fears more young people will try to harm themselves while the community tries to grapple with the crisis after declaring a state of emergency Saturday, following reports of 11 suicide attempts in one day. There are also reports of over 100 suicide attempts and at least one death since September.
On Monday, provincial and federal government officials sent a medical emergency assistance team and five additional mental health workers to the First Nation community of less than 2,000. Three mental health workers were already in the community, a spokesperson for Health Canada told CBC News on Tuesday.
The emergency debate was approved by House Speaker Geoff Regan Tuesday morning on a request from NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat.
“The crisis in Attawapiskat has gathered world attention and people are looking to this Parliament to explain the lack of hope, that’s not just in Attawapiskat but in so many indigenous communities. And they’re looking to us, in this new Parliament, to offer change,” Angus said in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning.
Angus said the emergency debate would allow MPs to address “the lack of mental health services, police services, community supports” facing so many First Nations communities across the country.
“In closing,” Angus said, “the prime minister called the situation in Attawapiskat ‘heartbreaking’ but it is up to us as parliamentarians to turn this into a moment of hope-making.”
“That’s why I’m asking my colleagues to work with me tonight, to work together, to discuss this issue tonight and start to lay a path forward to give the hope to the children of our northern and all other indigenous communities,” Angus said Tuesday morning.
Regan acknowledged “the gravity of this situation” before granting Angus’s request.
Other Ontario First Nations communities declared public health emergencies earlier this year.
At least four aboriginal leaders have been scheduled to appear before the Commons indigenous affairs committee on Thursday to discuss the health crises facing their communities. (Source: CBC News)
Federal Minister of Indigenous & Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was asked about former prime minister Jean Chretien’s suggestion this week that those living on remote reserves could consider moving.
“It is about people’s attachment to the land, people having a right to live a traditional life and but also with economic opportunities,” she said.
“There’s choice involved …. Some communities have chosen to change their location to no longer be flooded and be on higher ground. Some community members choose to go to town to get a job, but then be able to come back, but this is about us wanting to support the choices.” (Source: Globe & Mail)