Leaders strive for solutions to suicides in Far North
Published Wednesday, January 25, 2017 8:21PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 26, 2017 7:45AM EST
The Quebec government is holding public hearings this week on how to improve living conditions and access to social services for indigenous communities throughout the province.
One of the largest concerns at the talks is a a recent string of suicides in the far north.
Earlier this month a coroner released a report after five suicides in an Innu community near Sept Iles.
He confirmed the suicides in Uashsat Mak Mani-Utenam were all "avoidable," and pointed to substance abuse, and high rates of unemployment, as significant problems in the community.
Native Affairs Minister Geoff Kelley said the suicides are also the result of the lack of access to education, and to health and social services.
He invited indigenous community groups and native leaders to tackle the issues at round-table discussions in Quebec City.
We have the report of the coroner, already my colleague Lucie Charlebois is at work with the federal government to follow up on those recommendations. But we're looking at other elements to develop a more fully-fleshed out social development plan for the First Nations and Inuits of Quebec," said Kelley.
Among those recommendations are developing rehabilitation programs, programs to offer family therapy, and employing Innu speakers at a suicide helpline.
In December the provincial government launched an inquiry into the relationship between indigenous people and public services in Quebec, including police forces, correctional services, health care and social services.
The inquiry came after several native women alleged they were sexually abused by police officers in Val d'Or, but the Crown could not accumulate enough evidence, or consistency from the witnesses and victims, to prove a case.
"We have to keep faith. We have very strong women in our communities, women that have suffered and still suffer and who are very brave who denounced and are standing up for themselves and we're there standing with them as well so we hope that the government is going to hear us, us as women as well," said Cynthia Smith of the Quebec Native Women group.
Public consultations continue Thursday.