Back to First Nations & Aboriginal Rights

Facing suicide rates on remote First Nations: Why leaving may not be an option


Why don’t they just leave? That question was posted on our Facebook page in response to the story about Onigaming First Nation declaring a state of emergency last week after the 4th suicide this year, in their community of 450 people.

“No one is stopping them from exiting conditions of life that exist where this community is,” wrote Anthony Renaud. “They can move wherever they want.”

Here are five reasons, offered up by our Facebook community, why leaving isn’t always an option:

Erin Cornelius: Leaving your home requires the financial ability and often a support system. Not only do you have to find a place to go (and a way to get there), you have to ensure you can afford it, land a job there, etc. Starting over isn't easy for anyone, and if you are coming from a place of poverty it can be almost impossible.

Ed Cardinal: Many who do leave, are more often than not, intimidated by their surroundings and have no actual experience speaking to white folk and the job market, well, even a simple labour job will more often than not be passed over to someone else, as many do not wish to have us on their job sites … you make things sound so easy, when it is very difficult just to get housing.

Bobbi Derkson: Even if they could pick up and leave, who will cut the firewood for their grandparents? Who will take their auntie to town for groceries or doctor's appointments? Who will help their cousin with her new baby? Who will run the kids' volleyball and hockey programs? These people are needed in their communities. What is also needed is hope for a better future.

Joe Warden: But if your kids are killing themselves out of sociological conditions, what choice do you have but to move where their future will have more hope?

Molly Isaac responds: What choice do you have? You have the choice to stay in your homeland and stand against the undercurrent, for your legal and inherent rights, with the hope that one day they will be fully acknowledged and respected so children of future generations will have the freedom and choice to never become the victims of colonialist policies of imposed poverty, dislocation or assimilation again.

Selma Thevarge: Running away from your problems doesn't work. Moving somewhere else won't erase or solve depression, painful memories of their upbringing. Healing takes time and dedication. Kudos for recognizing a need for help and being strong enough to ask for it.

A joint statement from Onigaming First Nation and Grand Council Treaty #3 said they are asking for help from a variety of social service agencies and from all levels of government.

It said the community wants to develop a long-term healing strategy, but needs more resources now to deal with the current crisis.


to comment