Indigenous

Ontario to spend up to $2M to help Attawapiskat First Nation

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that the provincial government will dedicate up to $2 million to help the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation.

Money will pay salaries of mental health workers, nurses and security, fund youth centre

Around 150 people of all ages took part in a candlelight suicide awareness walk Tuesday night in Attawapiskat. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced Wednesday that the provincial government will dedicate up to $2 million toward long-term solutions to prevent suicide attempts in the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation.

The money will pay for continuous mental health support, and night and evening nursing clinical support, including four mental health workers, up to five nurses, two security staff, one communications person and an incident manager. A youth centre will also be set up.

Hoskins travelled to Attawapiskat with Tracy MacCharles, Ontario's minister of children and youth services.

"The provincial government, the local band council and the community will hold a forum to develop a long-term plan to support the community to ensure the people of Attawapiskat  particularly youth feel safe, respected and supported," the two said in a joint statement.

The remote northern Ontario First Nation of about 2,000 is facing a suicide crisis among its youth. Mental health workers have been flown in to help, kicking off some difficult conversations with young people about what's causing them to want to end their lives.

Attawapiskat march 1:04

The Attawapiskat chief declared a state of emergency Saturday evening, after 11 suicide attempts in a single day and reports of over 100 suicide attempts and at least one death since September.

Health Canada said Tuesday that roughly 18 additional people — including a crisis co-ordinator, two youth support workers and a psychologist — had been deployed as temporary crisis relief since a state of emergency was declared in Attawapiskat.

No quick fixes

former prime minister who dealt with similar issues during his tenure said Tuesday there are no quick fixes.

"It's an extremely difficult problem," Jean Chrétien said. "I was with this problem in 1968, a long time ago. It takes time and patience, and there's always tragedies of that nature that occur and the government has to do its best to cure it. But it's not easy."