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Shamattawa First Nation Declares State Of Emergency In Wake Of Multiple Suicides

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This is the second state of emergency for the Manitoban First Nation Community within the last five years

In 2016 the Shamattawa First Nation located in Northern Manitoba was rocked with a series of suicides within a week, which prompted calls for a state of emergency. Fast forward five years later, Chief Eric Redhead issued a state of emergency on Tuesday morning after his sister, and a mother of four took their lives.

First Nations communities already face enough challenges from systemic racism, dealing with the trauma of residential schools to lack of clean drinking water and now the global pandemic. The need for resources and mental health support has reached its climax. Just last night a seven-year-old girl attempted to take her own life and is now in a Winnipeg hospital in critical condition.

“This is a tragedy that has been ongoing for years. Our youth need hope but also a constructive means to express themselves and the value they hold to their families, communities and ancestors.” Said Dr Robert Falcon Ouellette, Former Chair of Canada’s Indigenous Caucus

Grand Chief Garrison Settee of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) has pledged to make all resources available to the people of Shamattawa to help cope with their state of emergency. This included an immediate deployment of the Mobile Crisis teams and calls for help from the federal and provincial governments.

In a recent interview, Chief Redhead fears a domino effect will happen and continues to reach out to the families within the community to connect with him if they need to talk. The suicide rates among First Nations people, Inuit and Métis in Canada, has been higher than the national rate among non-Indigenous people. The rates of suicide in the Indigenous community has been well documented and can be traced back to the horrific treatment they have had to endure from the impact of colonization.

As Canadians, we owe it to ourselves to learn and understand the history of oppression of Canada’s Indigenous people and do everything we can to ensure history never repeats itself. We need to appreciate that we reside on the Traditional and ancestral Land of the first people of Canada.

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