Winnipeg Indigenous and Northern Affairs office occupied by protesters
Protesters at INAC office on Hargrave Street call for help for First Nations in crisis
Protesters have occupied an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada office in downtown Winnipeg.
"We have officially occupied INAC in Winnipeg in support of our brothers and sisters across Turtle Island!!!!" organizer Raquel Lavallee posted on Facebook.
A similar occupation took place in Toronto on Wednesday when about 20 members of Idle No More and Black Lives Matter set up in an Indigenous and Northern Affairs office there, demanding the federal government take immediate action to address recent suicide attempts in Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.
Protesters started that occupation with a die-in on the floor of the office, before holding a ceremony that included the burning of sweetgrass and sage.
They said they were standing in solidarity with the Attawapiskat community, which declared a state of emergency Saturday following reports of 11 suicide attempts in one day alone last weekend.
- Attawapiskat declares state of emergency over spate of suicide attempts
- Attawapiskat suicide crisis: MPs hold emergency debate over suicide attempts
There are also reports of more than 100 suicide attempts and at least one death since September in the remote community of nearly 2,000 people.
Other First Nations dealing with recent suicides include Pimicikamak and Shamattawa in Manitoba.
- Northern Manitoba First Nation healing after suicide crisis wants to reach out to Attiwapiskat
- Pimicikamak declares state of emergency to deal with suicide crisis
- Shamattawa suicides shake northern Manitoba reserve
First Nations across Canada need better funding and a commitment from the federal government to address the poverty, overcrowded housing, and other issues, the protesters in Winnipeg say.
She drummed, sang songs and performed a smudge on the street in front of the office, where the protesters could see from a second-storey window.
"Canada has a serious problem and they need to deal with it in a big way. The population of indigenous people in Canada have had enough."
Lavallee posted on Facebook that it has been peaceful but asked supporters to bring protesters water and food.
"Well we are doing fine up here. The security is being very friendly," she wrote.
"The police are outside, we were told they were called only because there was concerns about our smudging."