Aboriginal suicide funding announcement

OTTAWA—In another response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday $69 million in new funding over three years specifically earmarked for suicide intervention and other health issues plaguing First Nations communities.

On Monday, James Bay area Chief Bruce Shisheesh of the Attawapiskat First Nation met with the prime minister in Ottawa when the announcement was made.

“While we will continue to engage indigenous partners in finding long-term solutions to these pressing issues, we know that urgent action is needed—and it is needed now—to address the health and mental wellness crises being faced by indigenous people,” Prime Minister Trudeau said in a written statement Monday afternoon.

The funds are planned for use in animating urgently needed mental health services. The federal government has also committed to working with First Nation leaders on a long-term plan to alleviate conditions that foster suicide.

Attawapiskat Chief Shisheesh’s community has been riven by numerous suicides and suicide attempts, largely from drug overdoses.

The measures the funding will address include, “”Four crisis response teams to provide surge capacity for rapid response services and crisis co-ordination in regions in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut that are identified as having the greatest need.” 

The communities of the James Bay coastal area, like Chief Shisheesh’s, will certainly be a part of this urgent focus.

The government is also committing to increasing the number of mental wellness teams from the current 11 to 43 for communities most at risk. Training will also be provided for existing community-based workers to ensure that care services are provided “in a culturally appropriate and competent way,” the government states.

These measures will be augmented by the establishment of a 24-hour “culturally safe” crisis response line.