An indigenous community in Canada’s northern region of Ontario has declared a state of emergency after 11 people there attempted suicide on Saturday night.
The Attawapiskat First Nation is a small subarctic community of 2,000 people, located near the Hudson Bay and more than 300 miles from the nearest city. The community’s chief, along with leaders of the Attawapiskat parliament, voted unanimously late Saturday night to declare a state of emergency.
One member of parliament, Charlie Angus, said the Attawapiskat community and the First Nation people lack resources typically available to others in Canada.
When “a young person tries to commit suicide in any suburban school, they send in the resources, they send in the emergency team. There’s a standard protocol for response,” Angus said. “The northern communities are left on their own. We don't have the mental-health service dollars. We don’t have the resources.”
Attawapiskat has high rates of poverty, and five years ago it made Canadian national news because of a lack of housing that forced some families to live in unheated trailers and tents. In 2013, the Attawapiskat’s chief at the time, Theresa Spence, starved herself of solid food for six weeks in a hunger strike to demand more aid from the government, and to force Canadian officials into a discussion with indigenous leaders.