Attawapiskat: House of Commons to hold emergency debate on suicide crisis

OTTAWA – The Speaker of the House of Commons has agreed to hold an emergency debate on the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat First Nation as well as other communities.

The debate, requested by NDP indigenous affairs critic Charlie Angus, is scheduled to take place today after 6 p.m. ET and last until around midnight.

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Angus, whose riding encompasses the troubled northern Ontario community, said Canadians living in the south would not tolerate the lack of mental-health care provided to indigenous children.

READ MORE: Attawapiskat: 13 kids taken to hospital over fears of ‘suicide pact’

Attawapiskat’s chief and eight councillors declared a state of emergency on Saturday, citing 11 suicide attempts so far in the month of April and 28 recorded attempts in March.

“These nightmares and tragedies should serve as wake-up calls that there isn’t time to wait,” Angus said in a letter requesting the debate.

“An emergency debate is required in order to allow parliamentarians to address this crisis and show that as parliamentarians we are willing to work together because the days of shrugging off the tragedies or tinkering with Band-Aid solutions are over.”

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Canada has heard cries from communities including Attawapiskat, La Loche, Sask., and Cross Lake, Man., Angus added.

In the Commons on Monday, Health Minister Jane Philpott said five mental health workers had arrived in the community of about 2,000 people.

“This is one of the most serious and pressing tragedies that our nation is facing,” she said.

“I am devastated by the situation that is taking place in Attawapiskat. I am working with my colleague, the minister of indigenous and northern affairs to respond to this tragedy.

“We are responding to both the immediate needs and long-term needs of this community. ”

Aboriginal leaders are also scheduled to address the Commons indigenous affairs committee on Thursday after northern Ontario First Nations communities declared a public health emergency earlier this year.