A group of protesters have taken over the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in Toronto, staging a die-in to support the residents of Attawapiskat.
The demonstration began Wednesday at around 11 a.m. as protesters took over the front lobby of the office, draping the reception desk with an upside-down Canadian flag and raising an Attawapiskat First Nation flag on the wall.
They are still occupying the offices.
Protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau go there to address the suicide crisis that’s going on, and call for better resources for young people in Attawapiskat.
Carrie Lester, a Mohawk of the Six Nations Grand Territory, says the government doesn’t seem to take action until there’s a crisis.
“These suicides have been going on for decades, but finally, with this one suicide pact they only now come forward with that Band-Aid solution of social workers after the fact.”
Earlier Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced the province will provide up to $2-million for a Youth Regional Co-ordination Unit and will deploy additional health-care workers and support staff in the community.
The suicide crisis at Attawapiskat got even worse on Monday as police broke up a suicide pact by 13 young aboriginal people, including a nine-year-old.
The youths were overheard making a pact to kill themselves and police brought them to the local hospital in Attawapiskat for an evaluation.
Members of Parliament held an emergency debate about the plight of Attawapiskat residents on Tuesday night.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould, who is Aboriginal, said natives need to control their destinies.
“All First Nations, all indigenous peoples need to be empowered to take back control of their own lives in partnership, and with full support of all Canadians,” said Raybould.
The NDP’s Charlie Angus, whose riding includes the Attawapiskat community of 2,000 residents, says there must be the political will to solve the crisis.
Angus said what’s happening on the reserve isn’t new, and that it’s time to do more than just apply Band-Aids and send in emergency flights.
Quebec Liberal William Amos said 40 suicide attempts in six weeks defies belief, and admitted the discussion leaves him feeling “intensely uncomfortable” as he and his kids have a comfortable place to sleep.