Neskantaga declares state of emergency – by Shawn Bell (Wawatay News – April 17, 2013)

The second suicide in less than a week in Neskantaga First Nation has prompted the community’s leadership to issue a state of emergency in a desperate call for help.

Neskantaga declared the state of emergency on April 17, the day after the suicide of a 19-year-old youth in the community. Word of the suicide came as the community was putting to rest another individual who passed away under similar circumstances last week.

“We have reached a breaking point and our community is under crisis,” said Neskantaga councillor Roy Moonias. “Our community is exhausted emotionally and physically as we try to pick up the pieces from these tragic events.”

Moonias noted that the recent suicide was the fourth in the community this year, along with 20 other attempted suicides, and the seventh sudden tragic death of the year.

In a press release, Neskantaga noted a list of issues the community faces, including approximately 50 per cent of its population addicted to prescription drugs, issues of sexual abuse, inadequate policing services and no access to proper mental health and addictions treatments and counselling.

The community of 421 people, 75 per cent of whom are youth, also does not have access to a clean water supply. Meanwhile it faces what Moonias called “overwhelming pressures” to respond to demands of the mining industry and the provincial government over the Ring of Fire.

Moonias said the community is calling on all levels of government, health providers, the justice community and social service agencies to support Neskantaga in the crisis situation.

“There are no treatments here, and more and more young people are taking their lives,” Moonias said. “This is unacceptable and something must change.”

The councillor noted that Health Canada has not provided adequate resources for the community to deal with and prevent suicides.

“We are getting frustrated and concerned for our young people and entire community that Health Canada has not stepped up to ensure we have adequate resourcing available to deal with and prevent such crippling incidents from taking place,” Moonias said.

He added that the First Nation needs immediate resources to support more policing, and assistance in supplying food, safe water, accommodations and transportation to deal with the influx of support staff coming to the community.

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