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NDP leader, police chief attend Walking With Our Angels rally held in Saskatoon

Click to play video: 'Walking With Our Angels rally held in Saskatoon' Walking With Our Angels rally held in Saskatoon
WATCH: More than 40 people came to meet Tristen Durocher and Christopher Merasty. – Jul 18, 2020

Though Tristen Durocher wasn’t walking on Saturday, he was still working to raise awareness of the high suicide rate in northern Saskatchewan.

Around 40 people gathered in downtown Saskatoon to meet Durocher and his walking partner Christopher Merasty and to show their support.

“We have children from all over the world in this province now. They matter,” he said.

Read more: Advocate calls for legislation to address Saskatchewan’s high Indigenous suicide rate

“We cannot have politicians that stand up for ‘our schools, our children, our communities,’ instead of ‘the children.’”

Durocher and Merasty left La Ronge on July 2. They’re walking more than 600 kilometres to the legislative building in Regina to call for the government to implement an effective suicide prevention strategy.

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Once he arrives, he will begin a hunger strike.

“I want the people in our province to know this isn’t just an Indigenous issue. Saskatchewan has the highest suicide rates in Canada,” he said.

Durocher told Global News his march was partially motivated by the Saskatchewan Party voting down Bill 618, a private members’ bill that would have implemented a suicide strategy.

And while he decried the current government as “inept” politicians, he said the solution doesn’t need to be a bipartisan issue.

Read more: Saskatchewan government introduces ‘Pillars for Life’ suicide prevention plan

NDP Leader Ryan Meili and his family attended the event. Meili said his MLAs were ready to go back to the legislature before the upcoming election, scheduled for Oct. 26, to pass emergency legislation on this topic.

Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper was also in attendance.

He told Global News the Saskatoon Police Service received more than 2,000 calls about suicide in the past year — which averages to more than five every day.

“Each one of those numbers is a person, a family, someone in need,” he said.

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He added that prevention plans, which encompass social services and go beyond law enforcement, need to be implemented.

Read more: Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation declares state of crisis after 3 recent suicides

“These are complicated issues for sure, but they’re worth working on and I know the police have a small role to play, but a significant role.”

Durocher said Cooper wasn’t invited to the event and showed up on his own accord.

When asked about the issues and discussions that get attached to his march — like the upcoming election or the call to defund police — Durocher said his training as a musician helped him focus.

“The frenetic, external noise doesn’t bother me, doesn’t disrupt my focus and… our clear vision of what we’re trying to accomplish — which is action, which is less children being buried.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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