In Canada, our mistreatment of Aboriginals, Metis, and Inuit is well documented. But the question has arisen again, and again, and again. That is, how do we give First Nations peoples the same opportunities and hope that most non-First Nations have.
Canadians ought to remember the recent shooting in La Loche, Saskatchewan, which victimized four people and their families. In Manitoba lies the Cross Lake First Nation, located roughly five hundred kilometres north of Winnipeg. In this First Nations community six people, mostly youth, have taken their lives, dozens of others in a community numbering only 6000 have made attempts in the past three months, and over ten percent of the student body is on a suicide watch-list.
These numbers are quite staggering, but so too is our response to them. Imagine if over ten percent of Jewish Toronto school children were on a suicide watch list, or if 15% of the Sikh student population in Toronto were on a suicide watch list. Just think how different our responses would be.
Amongst First Nations peoples, reports The Globe and Mail, suicide and self-inflicted wounds are the most common killer amongst First Nations under the age of 44. First Nations youth are five or six times more likely to kill themselves than those who are not-First Nations. Canadians can say these are First Nations, they are not our responsibility or they are the responsibility of Canadian politicians and leaders. But shouldn’t we also say that we should do our utmost to help because First Nations are also Canadians. And shouldn’t we, as fellow Canadians, help them, and provide them with hope and opportunity?
First Nations woman, Allison Blacksmith, a 20 year-old, whose aunt committed suicide last week said, “It’s depressing. There’s nothing here.”
A retired physician who specialized in addictions reported to The Globe and Mail that suicide is the byproduct of trauma. The drugs, alcohol, and other addictions drive First Nations people to the ends and compel many of them to take their lives. The root of the problem must be attacked. First Nations need to be shown there are opportunities for them, that there is hope and success in their futures. Attention also needs to be paid to how the rest of Canada views these problems and how we shift the discussion to that of compassion and understanding and away from neglect and ignorance.
After all, the First Nations who commit suicide are just people, humans like you and me.