MONTREAL — Next week, a plane will deliver aid to the suffering people of Attawapiskat, Ont. — letters and drawings from their Cree brethren on the Quebec side of James Bay.
“We wanted to do something where they would know that the Quebec Crees are there,” says Ashley Iserhoff, director of health and social development for the Cree community of Mistissini, Que. “We wanted to show our solidarity. We wanted to show our encouragement and find ways where they know that people value their lives, value who they are.”
In the grips of an epidemic of youth suicide attempts, Attawapiskat’s leaders declared a state of emergency this week, and the Ontario government pledged $2 million in special funding.
For the Ontario Cree communities of Attawapiskat and Kashechewan, which lurch from one crisis to another, it will take more than messages of solidarity and emergency funding to break the cycle. Some, including former prime minister Jean Chrétien, suggest that remote reserves like Attawapiskat are simply not viable. But across James Bay, the Quebec Cree have proven that notion wrong. In addition to the moral support they will send to Attawapiskat, they offer a model of effective aboriginal governance.
Mathew Coon Come, grand chief of Quebec’s 17,500 Cree and former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says the suffering of the people of Attawapiskat has deep historical roots.
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