First Nations tackle recent spike in suicides
The atmosphere was solemn but hopeful as Cowichan Tribes gathered Tuesday to discuss how to prevent future suicides in the community.
In the wake of four people taking their lives in recent weeks, Cowichan Tribes' Chief Harvey Alphonse said they want to find a way to show youth there is a better choice.
“Our community has been impacted recently by the loss of our family members. And I sense the urgency to reach out to our entire community to assist with helping our youth, and giving a strong message that they should choose life over another course.”
According to the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the rate of suicide in the Cowichan Valley is 35 per cent higher than the average in British Columbia. Duncan Councillor Joe Thorne is hoping Tuesday’s forum, called “Circle of Light” would help explore the reasons behind the statistics.
“What’s happening with our kids, why are they angry? What has to change?”
Cowichan Tribes are aiming to shed national exposure to the issue by inviting Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo to the forum. From the Ahousaht First Nation on the west of Vancouver Island, Atleo pointed out the lingering affects the residential school system has on the already marginalized First Nations’ communities, but added that it’s an issue for the country as a whole.
“We’ve inherited a legacy—a deep, dark chapter in our collective history. And as my late grandmother said before she passed on, it’s going to take every single one of us to turn that page to a new chapter that’s filled with hope and optimism.”
Atleo said the funding gap between First Nations’ education and the rest of Canada must be addressed to rectify the problem.
“The fastest growing segment of the Canadian population is aboriginal young people, holding… the greatest promise for the future of this country,” he put forward. “And so to invest in their future, right now, recognizing that there are urgent and crisis needs in places like Cowichan, should compel us all to action, immediately.”
The federal government is setting aside $275 million to enhance First Nations’ education over three years, an amount Atleo said may be just a springboard in addressing the education gap.
To find support services and information from the Vancouver Island Crisis Line, click here or dial 1-888-494-3888.
Photo: AFN Chief Shawn Atleo speaks with Cowichan Tribes members at a forum in Duncan
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