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Canadian town declares state of emergency after six suicides in three months

The Independent logo The Independent 2016-03-11 Ian Johnston

A Canadian town on a First Nation reserve has declared a state of emergency after six people killed themselves in the past three months and 170 school pupils were put on suicide watch.

Shirley Robinson, acting chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, has formally asked Health Canada to send a crisis team to help prevent further deaths. The reserve has a population of just 5,858 people.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that four high school students were among those who had taken their lives since 12 December.

Ms Robinson, who is related to one of the dead, told CBC: “There's so much hurt, there's so much pain. You can feel it in every direction of our nation. We're tired. We need that support, we need that assistance, everybody in our community feels it … this is too much for me.

Manitoba has 63 First Nations, and is second only to Ontario in terms of total on-reserve population (Picture: [copyright]) © Provided by The Independent Manitoba has 63 First Nations, and is second only to Ontario in terms of total on-reserve population (Picture: [copyright])

“This crisis is significantly putting a lot of stress and anxiety and depression and hopelessness amongst our people.”

High school principal Gordon Hum said two students attempted suicide on Tuesday night and staff were trying to keep a watch on the children.

Cyril Muskego, of Pimicikamak, said that his 21-year-old granddaughter, Anita Scatch, had killed herself in December.

“It was a very tragic moment of my life,” he said. “Up to this day, I don't know why she did this. My life has never been the same since she's gone.

“It has been very lonely. I cry all the time, visit her grave. My heart goes out to youths of Cross Lake.”

Cora Morgan, a Manitoba First Nations family advocate, said the situation was “really, really scary”.

“It's overwhelmingly sad. The quality of life for our young people is so low,” she said.

“When people aren't satisfied and happy with their lives, they see this as their only way out.”


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