Indigenous suicide report calls on feds to provide supports after hours and on weekends

MaryAnn Mihychuk, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, speaks in the foyer of the House of Commons along with committee members on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 19, 2017, regarding the committee's ninth report, which examined suicide in Indigenous communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A House of Commons committee looking at the issue of indigenous suicide is urging the federal government to make sure aboriginal communities have resources available after hours and on weekends – which is when emergencies typically occur, it said.

The report released Monday included a total of 28 recommendations – work that flowed from a 2016 motion to examine and report on suicide among indigenous people and communities across the country.

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During its study, the committee heard from over 50 indigenous youth representatives, First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders, academics and health organizations.

MPs on the committee say the witnesses – including many young people – shared difficult personal stories of suicide, while also expressing hope that mental health issues within indigenous communities could be addressed.

READ MORE: First Nations leaders slam Trudeau government for ‘dragging their feet’ on youth suicide crisis

Cathy McLeod, a B.C. MP and the Conservative indigenous affairs critic, said the committee needed to put its differences aside and come up with a unanimous report after hearing “disturbing” testimony.

“We had a father who lost his son who came to our committee and bravely shared his story,” McLeod said.

“We were sitting in Vancouver … and we heard from a young girl about her assault at the hands of someone she knew in her community.”

The committee report also said witnesses highlighted how intergenerational trauma is a factor in the suicide crisis.

“It is an important report,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said in an interview.

“The issue of intergenerational trauma and child abuse is there, but I think we all know we have got to really provide the safety for young people to be able to disclose child abuse and get the appropriate kind of trauma-based care.”

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READ MORE: Rash of Saskatchewan youth suicides triggers cross-Canada response

MPs heard about sexual abuse in indigenous communities during the course of their work, said Liberal MP and committee chair MaryAnn Mihychuk, noting the issue was raised “lightly” due to its extreme sensitivity.

“We have heard and we know that there is significant sexual abuse in indigenous communities,” she said outside the House of Commons.

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