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Indigenous people need resources 24/7 to cut suicide rates, committee recommends – Health

Canada’s Indigenous people need resources round the clock, and culturally appropriate programs and services that are community led and controlled as part of a suicide prevention plan to reverse “decades of unjust policies,” a parliamentary committee says. 

These are among 28 recommendations in a report released Monday by the House of Commons standing committee on Indigenous and northern affairs, which had been collecting research and holding public consultations since May 2016. 

‘We need to send a message to Indigenous Canadians, and especially to young Indigenous people, that their lives have value, that they matter.’
MaryAnn Mihychuk, Liberal MP

“We need to send a message to Indigenous Canadians, and especially to young Indigenous people, that their lives have value, that they matter, and to hold on to hope,” said Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk, chair of the committee.

“We recognize that they are losing hope because they have difficult lives and are suffering from intergenerational trauma as the result of decades of unjust policies, and that we must act together to restore hope.”

Suicide is a leading cause of death among Indigenous people, according to the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which submitted a brief to the committee. Rates of death by suicide among First Nations are two times higher than the national average, CAMH said, citing Statistics Canada data.

As part of its work, the committee heard from 99 witnesses, including over 50 indigenous youth representatives, First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, academics and health organizations.

MPs on the committee say the witnesses shared difficult personal stories of suicide.

Health Minister Jane Philpott, in her testimony, called the high rates of suicide in Indigenous communities a “public health crisis” that has its roots in “long-standing social inequity … in colonialism, racism, assimilation, residential schools,…

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