Mushkegowuk Council launches inquiry into suicide pandemic
After receiving no government support, the Mushkegowuk First Nations in the James Bay region of Ontario will launch a ‘Peoples Inquiry’ to address the suicide crisis troubling their communities.
“The suicide pandemic we experienced is like a deadly disease that is so unpredictable, hard to understand, very difficult to cure and definitely has been felt in every home throughout our communities,” said Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Stan Louttit.
In a three-year period between 2009 and 2011, Mushkegowuk reported that about 600 youth and other community members experienced suicide ideation and loss of life.
“This suicide pandemic devastated our communities and we need to do more research to find the real root causes of this pandemic and we never want our people to go through such a tragedy again,” said Mushkegowuk Council Deputy Grand Chief Leo Friday.
The Mushkegowuk First Nations decided at a Summit in 2010 to develop an inquiry into the causes of the crises and how they can be addressed. After spending several years unsuccessfully applying for federal and provincial government support, the Mushkegowuk chiefs decided to proceed on their own.
The First Nations have raised $226,000 from their communities and from donations from corporate partners. Although there is a shortfall in the budget of $46,885 the communities are proceeding.
Four community members have been selected as commissioners for the inquiry, along with a commission coordinator.
The commissioners will hold two sets of hearings in each of the seven member First Nations in Mushkegowuk Council over the coming year. Despite not having all the funding secured, the seriousness and sense of urgency to start the People’s Inquiry prompted the Council of Chiefs to begin by hiring a coordinator and four commissioners. The lead commissioner is Mike Metatawabin from Fort Albany First Nation; Elder commissioner Jackie Fletcher from Missanabie Cree First Nation; youth commissioner - Helen Kataquapit from Attawapiskat First Nation and health & social commissioner Dorinda Vincent from Moose Cree First Nation and Nellie Trapper from Moose Cree First Nation.
The public hearings are scheduled to start in Sept. 2013 and to be completed by March 2014.
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