Neskantaga First Nation News Release: Fourth World Living Conditions in the Ring of Fire: Call to Action

“I have to do something because my people live in poverty, my people are killing themselves,
my people don’t have clean drinking water…I want to make a change for the betterment of the community
and the people and the generations to come.” – Chief Peter Moonias

Neskantaga First Nation is an isolated fly-in Oji-Cree First Nation community located in northern Ontario along Attawapiskat Lake in the Ring of Fire. The community itself covers approximately 831 hectares of vast northern Ontario landscape and has an estimated population of 420 residents, 60 percent of whom are youth. In this small community, there were seven youth suicides (7) and twenty seven suicide attempts (27) over a twelve-month period, which forced Chief Peter Moonias to declare a state of emergency in the spring of 2013.

Since that time, the community has been calling on all levels of government, health providers, the justice community, social service agencies, and families to collectively support Neskantaga during their time of crisis. While a number of initiatives were started to assist the community in dealing with their grief, suicides of young people continue. Regrettably, since the summer of 2013, three (3) more youth have taken their lives, with the most recent suicide of a 16-year-old girl on April 2, 2014.

These suicides are directly linked to the deplorable living conditions in the community. For example, the residents of Neskantaga have had no clean drinking water since 1995, lack access to fresh and affordable food, and inhabit homes that are dangerously overcrowded and infested with black mould. It is shameful that in a country known for its wealth and humanity, there are people who cannot meet even their most basic needs for survival. How many more children must die before we take action? It is time to come together to collectively make change happen.

Backgrounder: Neskantaga First Nation 

Tragedy in a Ring of Fire First Nation: Call to Action

Neskantaga First Nation is an isolated fly‐in Oji‐Cree First Nation community located in northern Ontario along
Attawapiskat Lake. The community itself covers approximately 831 hectares of vast northern Ontario landscape
and has an estimated population of 420 residents, 60 percent of whom are youth.

This northern community has been, and continues to be, plagued by deplorable conditions which can only be
described as fourth world. Neskantaga struggles with inadequate housing, the existence of mould in most family
homes, an unemployment rate that exceeds 80 per  cent, no access to safe drinking water, the lack of fresh,
affordable and nutritious food, lack of adequate health and mental health services, youth having to leave their
community in order to attend high school at age 14, high rates of prescription drug abuse, and the ongoing effects
of intergenerational trauma.   These distressing conditions play a role in the appallingly high number of youth
suicides. If any of these life threatening conditions were identified in Kitchener, Kingston, Sudbury or any other
community in Ontario, there would be an immediate public outcry resulting in meaningful actions.

In this small community of 400 members, there have been seven youth suicides (7) and twenty seven suicide
attempts (27) over a twelve month period which forced Chief Peter Moonias to declare a state of emergency in
the spring of 2013. Since that time, the community has been calling on all levels of government, health providers,
the justice community, social service agencies and families to collectively support Neskantaga during their time of
crisis. While a number of initiatives were started to assist the community in dealing with their grief, suicides of
young people continue. Regrettably, since the summer of 2013, three (3) more youth have taken their lives with
the  most recent suicide  of  a  16  year‐old  girl,  which  occurred  on  April  2,  2014.  Until the  basic  needs  and fundamental  issues  facing  this  community  are  adequately  addressed,  Neskantaga  First  Nation  will  be  in  a continual state of emergency.

Call to Action:

It  is time to take action to address the fundamental  issues facing Neskantaga  First Nation that drive  youth to
tragically ending their lives: safe drinking water, food security, environmental concerns, housing, unemployment,
education/training opportunities, recreation, social entrepreneurship, cultural revitalization and so on. There are
many individuals, voluntary sector agencies and government organizations in Ontario with the skills, resources and
motivation to mobilize a plan of action in partnership with the people of Neskantaga First Nation. It is time to come
together with the intent of collectively making change happen.  Please join us on:

Date: April 29, 2014
Time: 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Location:  Park Hyatt Toronto
4 Avenue Road
Queen’s Park South Ballroom
Toronto, ON, M5R 2E8

For more information, contact:
Chief Peter Moonias
Neskantaga First Nation
Band Office: 807 479 2570
Cell: 807 621 3611

Roy Moonias
Band Council Member
Band Office: 807 479 2570
[email protected] .com

Betty‐Lou Scholey
Ryerson University
416 959 5000 x 4809; 416 357 1773
[email protected]

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