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Suicides of northern Saskatchewan indigenous girls on minds of leaders

A candle vigil was held Tuesday night to remember six northern Saskatchewan girls who have committed suicide in recent weeks.
The recent suicides of six indigenous girls in northern Saskatchewan are on the minds of political and aboriginal leaders. Devin Sauer / Global News

Political and indigenous leaders in Saskatchewan are heading to a northern community to try to understand why so many young girls are committing suicide.

Premier Brad Wall and Bobby Cameron, chief of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), are scheduled to be in La Ronge on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Saskatoon woman sending letters of hope to northern Sask. during suicide crisis

Since the middle of October, six girls between the ages of 10 and 14 have taken their own lives in northern Saskatchewan, including four from the Lac La Ronge Indian band.

Cameron says one immediate step that could help is the creation of youth centres with programs after hours and on the weekend when young people are most vulnerable.

But he says there also needs to be long-term political support.

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Wall said there were plans in the works to increase mental health resources in the north before the suicides, but the premier says he’s also interested in the idea of a mental health and addictions centre in the north.

“We’re going to be meeting with health care professionals,” Wall said. “We’re going to be meeting with local leaders. I’m sure we’re going to talk to families that are concerned and some of them that have gone through these unspeakable tragedies.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s new children’s advocate making suicide crisis his top priority

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said last week that the community is working through the pain to reach out to young people in the hope of preventing more deaths. Cook-Searson said the First Nation is working with social agencies and the provincial and federal governments to stabilize the situation.

The chief said the key to stopping the suicides will be letting girls know that people want to help them, their friends or family if they are hurting.

READ MORE: Candle light vigil held in La Ronge after sixth youth suicide in northern Sask.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the suicides in northern Saskatchewan a tragedy and said the federal government is committed to working with indigenous communities to deal with the problem.

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Health Canada has said more mental-health workers and other health-care professionals have been sent to communities that have requested them.