Politicians are sparing over the government's response to suicides in Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake).
This week, the government of Manitoba sent mobile crisis unit from Thompson to help the community address a recent rash of suicides.
Six people in the community have killed themselves since Dec. 12 in the 5,858-person community. Five of the victims were youths, one was a mother in her 30s. Acting chief Shirley Robinson has declared a state of emergency.
"My colleagues and I are deeply concerned about this," said NDP MLA Eric Robinson, minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs. Pimicikamak happens to be Robinson's home community.
"I think that all of us as a Manitoba community are concerned about our fellow citizens," he said.
Opposition critic for family services, Ian Wishart, said recent efforts made by the Manitoba government to address mental health needs are too little, too late.
"Children's Special Allowance funding has been clawed back by this government … along with many others, leaving these agencies serving our most vulnerable children without the resources they need to deliver all of their services," Wishart said in question period on Wednesday.
A provincial government spokesperson said Wishart's assertion is incorrect, as the special allowance is not ear-marked for mental health.
Kerri Irvin-Ross, Manitoba's minister of child and family services, said recent suicides in Pimicikamak are the result of a complex set of problems, including poverty and racism.
"I'm almost speechless with how this member opposite is politicizing the death of children in this province," Irvin-Ross said, also in question period.
Eric Robinson said he spoke with his federal counterpart, Carolyn Bennett, Canada's Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, on Wednesday morning.
"We talked about this issue and the wide ranging issue of suicide itself among young people, particularly not only in PCN, but other communities," Robinson said.
In letter to CBC, Bennett's press secretary Sabrina Williams wrote "INAC is working with the Chief and Council, child and family services staff and educators in Cross Lake to identify need, and take immediate action in response."
Eric Robinson said he and Amanda Lathlin, MLA for The Pas, plans to travel to Pimicikamak shortly.
"We're trying to deal with the issue the best way we know how," he said.
Health Canada said additional crisis mental health therapists are also scheduled to visit the community this month.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, these resources are available: