Moment of silence observed in Ontario legislature for Bearskin Lake First Nation girl
Tim Brody - Editor
Members of Provincial Parliament rose and observed a moment of silence last Thursday in memory of a 13-year-old girl from the remote, fly-in community of Bearskin Lake First Nation, who died as a result of suicide just the day before.
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, the NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic, requested the moment of silence for Karlena Kamenawatamin.
Mamakwa asked the Provincial Government for assurances that resources are going to First Nations communities to help prevent more suicides among children and youth.
“The Chief and the community are concerned that there will be more tragedies like Karlena’s,” said Mamakwa. "This concern is well founded. In 2015, a ten-year old took her life – this was also in Bearskin Lake.
“What is the Premier prepared to do to ensure these pandemics of our young, Indigenous people killing themselves stops once and for all?” Mamakwa posed.
Minister of Health and Long Term Care Christine Elliott addressed Mamakwa stating, “It is something that we take very seriously on this side of the house as well. I know that in many Indigenous communities there are no adequate supports for young people for physical or mental health and mental health is health. That is something that we are going to seriously address as we are filing and completing our system of mental health and addictions.
“We know that there are far too many young people committing suicide that should have a chance at life. They need a lot of supports, not just health counseling, it’s so much more than that. It’s education, it’s housing, it’s communications with others. There’s lots of work that we need to do, but I look forward to working with you, to visiting your communities and understanding from people directly what supports that they need and we will do our best to provide those supports.”
In a news release issued by the Ontario New Democratic Party, Mamakwa said that two years ago the suicide rate for children under the age of 15 in the First Nations communities he represents was 50 times higher than the national average.
“But what has changed since these children died? This is a health crisis. A mental health crisis. An intergenerational trauma crisis. And a housing crisis,” said Mamakwa.
“Karlena – the girl who died this week – lived in a rundown house without electricity.
“What is the premier prepared to do today – long-term – to ensure that the community of Bearskin Lake and other remote communities in Ontario have the resources they need to prevent more deaths of our young people?” Mamakwa asked.