The federal Liberal government says it is working with the leadership of Gods Lake Narrows to help them cope with a suicide crisis in the northeastern Manitoba First Nation.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said during Question Period in the House of Commons Dec. 10 that departmental officials are meeting with community leaders in Gods Lake Narrows Dec. 1.
“Departmental health teams continue to work closely with our partners in Manitoba to co-ordinate augmented crisis response and mental wellness supports to mitigate any gaps in coverage during this time,” said Miller. “We will continue working with the leadership to support their needs and response as a community-led approach is the best approach, especially when it comes to mental wellness.”
Miller was responding to a question from Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton, who said voters in her riding sent a message in the Oct. 21 federal election that they were tired of the federal government making empty promises.
“Enough of promising a new relationship and doing the opposite,” said Ashton. “Enough of promising the Dene to settle the north of 60 land claim and bailing. Enough of promising to solve the housing crisis on First Nations and failing. Enough of ignoring the suicide crisis in Gods Lake Narrows, where over 100 people, primarily young girls, have attempted suicide in the last four months. Will the minister of Indigenous services acknowledge that they have failed to keep their promises and finally do something to act on these urgent issues?”
Gods Lake First Nation Chief Gilbert Andrews declared a state of emergency in August after four deaths by suicide and 22 suicide attempts by young people in his community over the summer.
“This is a crisis that our health staff are dealing with every day and we need help immediately,” he said at that time.
The chief said the community of less than 1,000 people, located about 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg and accessible only by air except during the winter road season, was dealing with a methamphetamine crisis as well as addictions to alcohol and other drugs.
“We must develop a comprehensive plan in partnership with the federal government, otherwise this crisis will continue, and we will continue to experience tragedy and trauma,” Andrews said in August.