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Davis Inlet: World's most suicide-ridden people

"We are a lost people." That description by an Innu chief seemed fitting when a shocking video of six gas-sniffing teens, screaming they wanted to die, was broadcast to the world. The once-nomadic Innu of Labrador have struggled under a haze of isolation, poverty and addiction ever since their 1967 settlement. A second relocation, this time from the shantytown of Davis Inlet to the new community of Natuashish, offered much promise, but it was just the beginning of a long healing process.

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Canada's Tibet: The Killing of the Innu is the title of a damning report released by Survival International, an international native rights organization that works with indigenous people around the world. The report blames the Canadian government for the crushing poverty, the rampant substance abuse and the sky-high suicide rates of the Labrador Innu. The report calls the Innu of Davis Inlet "the most suicide-ridden people of the world."

Napes Ashini, an Innu leader who was supposed to take part in the televised news conference for the report, cancels his trip after learning about his own son's suicide. Critics of the report, including Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin, say it is flawed. "The kind of sensational language which suggests the national government of Canada is encouraging this kind of result for troubled men and women, I think is, terribly exploitive in a very difficult time." 
• "Unless things change radically and very quickly, it will be too late," said Survival International's director Stephen Corry, adding that this is the first time in the organization's 30-year history that it has declared a situation to be "almost beyond hope."

• Survival International was founded in 1969 spurred by an article written by Norman Lewis on Brazil's Amazon region and its devastating effects on Brazil's native people. With supporters in over 80 countries, Survival International is the only global organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide.

• One month before the release of the Survival International report, a federal-provincial report on the health of Canadians found that suicide among First Nations people was two to seven times higher than the rest of the population.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 8, 1999
Guest(s): Brian Tobin
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Darrow MacIntyre
Duration: 3:17

Last updated: March 26, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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