A remote First Nation in Northern Ontario that has been mourning a spate of youth suicides this summer dearly needs federal help to build a new school and housing if it's to improve conditions for its young people, according to a report from the Ontario chief coroner's office.
Five people between the ages of 16 and 26 have killed themselves since July 15 in the community of Pikangikum, about 300 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
That's just part of an overall suicide rate that has been abnormally high for years. The coroner's report, commissioned before this summer's tragedies, looks back at the 16 people between ages 10 and 19 who took their own lives on the First Nation between 2006 and 2008 — in a community of 2,400 residents.
The report recommends the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs build a new school for Pikangikum, where students have been attending class in 17 portables since their schoolhouse burned down four years ago. It also says the government should ensure that new homes are built to address a shortage, and that they're connected to water and sewage. Governments of all levels need to co-ordinate better on delivering health care to Pikangikum, the report adds.
"The tragedy of the deaths of these children and youth presents a universal challenge. Meaningfully addressing these deaths goes to the leadership of all who are involved at a community level, regional level, provincial level and federal level, both for First Nations and non-First Nations Canadians," the report says.
CBC Radio's As It Happens talked to Ontario deputy chief coroner Bert Lauwers, who wrote the report.