Neskantaga First Nation chief leading move for improved living conditions and addressing suicide crisis


Irwin Elman wants Ontario to help Neskantaga First Nation

Improved living conditions needed for community struggling with high suicide rates, youth advocate says

Posted: Apr 30, 2014 

Neskantaga First Nation continues to be rocked by suicide and poor living conditions.

Neskantaga First Nation continues to be rocked by suicide and poor living conditions.

Crisis in Neskantaga 6:52

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Ontario's advocate for children and youth says it's time for the province to step up to help the community of Neskantaga. 

Irwin Elman joined the chief of the First Nation yesterday in a call for improved living conditions, and help addressing a suicide crisis.

Elman said it doesn't matter whether the federal government is technically responsible - the province needs to provide aid now.

"In many ways I think the people of Ontario are ahead of the government of Ontario and the government of Canada in wanting to make this commitment to once and for all say 'enough'," he said.

Irwin Elman

Irwin Elman, Ontario's advocate for children and youth, is asking the province to step up and pay for improvements on Neskantaga First Nation now, and figure out what level of government is responsible for paying later. (Supplied)

"We don't need to hear about another death from this community, or any other community in Ontario."

Elman said he hopes all levels of government will come together to discuss solutions, and that young people from Neskantaga will have a place at the table.

Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias declared a state of emergency over its suicide crisis in April 2013. Since then, three more young people have committed suicide.

The last time Elman was with the chief in Toronto, in January, it was to attend a memorial for Moonias' son Duane, who committed suicide.

Elman said he's dismayed to hear about even more deaths in the community, since that memorial.

"I thought we had hit the bottom of the barrel and things couldn't get worse, and then they did," he said.

Without a response from the province and the country to this crisis, Elman said, the residential school apology is "null and void."