Montreal

Quebec Innu suicide inquest: First Nations chief hoping for action

A First Nations chief on Quebec's North Shore says he's hopeful an inquest into the suicide of an 18-year-old Innu woman — the latest in a series of suicides in the community — will offer lessons to prevent further tragedies going forward.

Uashat-Maliotenam has been site of several suicides and suicide attempts in past year

The Innu community of Uashat-Maliotenam has been the site of several recent suicides and suicide attempts. (Radio-Canada)

A First Nations chief on Quebec's North Shore says he's hopeful a coroner's inquest into the suicide of an 18-year-old Innu woman — the latest in a series of suicides in the community — will offer lessons to prevent further tragedies going forward. 

Nadeige Guanish, the mother of a toddler, was found dead on Oct. 31 in Uashat-Maliotenam, near Sept-Îles, Que.

"I hope that the coroner's inquest will shed light on this tragedy and the circumstances surrounding it," Chief Mike McKenzie told a news conference on Monday.

It wasn't Guanish's first attempt. And her suicide was the fifth in the community of 4,500 in the past year.

Marie-Luce JourdainNadeige's aunt, said her niece's death "is a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be solved." 

"We have to find solutions to make sure this doesn't happen again," she said.

More resources needed, chief says

McKenzie said the community needs better programs and health services to prevent suicides and promote a healthy lifestyle.

He also wants a task force of local, provincial and RCMP officers to crack down on the drug problem in the community. Sept-Îles is a hub for drug trafficking on the North Shore, he said.

Premier Philippe Couillard said last Friday, after the government announced the inquest, that he's hopeful it will offer lessons to prevent further tragedies going forward. 

"We have to look closely at this case," he said recently.  "It's very worrisome."

'A lot of racism and bullying'

Stanley Vollant, an Innu surgeon from Pessamit, has visited the community of Uashat-Maliotenam several times.

He said the situation is particularly difficult for young people.

"Uashat is very close to Sept-Îles, and there is a lot of racism and bullying among the kids, non-aboriginal and aboriginal kids, so the racism and bullying can be another factor ... that make[s] the youth unwell," Vollant said.

The inquest hasn't officially been called.

The coroner's office said Monday it must first decide who will preside over it and what its official mandate will be.

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