North

Susan Aglukark leads #ArcticRoseWarCry suicide prevention campaign

Susan Aglukark, the Juno-award-winning singer from Nunavut, hopes her new #ArcticRoseWarCry campaign will unite aboriginal youth in a battle for suicide prevention.

'We're fighting for our lives,' says the famous singer. 'We are in a battle to save our future'

Susan Aglukark launched her #ArcticRoseWarCry campaign last Thursday during a concert at the Pan Am Aboriginal Pavilion in Toronto. She wants action on suicide prevention. (Submitted by Nadya Kwandibens)

Susan Aglukark, one of Nunavut's most recognizable singers, hopes her #ArcticRoseWarCry campaign will show Canada's leaders that the suicide rate among aboriginal youth is a national crisis — and something needs to be done.

"They're in crisis," said Aglukark. 

"Everybody hears about it all the time, but what are we really doing about it?" 

Aglukark launched the social media campaign during her concert last Thursday at the Aboriginal Pavilion, which ran concurrently during the Pan Am Games in Toronto. She says she chose the "war cry" theme in reference to the First Nations tradition. 

"The war cry is this really high-pitched scream, but it's not just a scream," she said.

It's about "announcing the battle" and rallying the troops. 

Susan Aglukark's #ArcticRoseWarCry campaign challenges people to raise their voices in support of suicide prevention and inundate leaders with a message to end the crisis. (Submitted by Nadya Kwandibens)

"The hashtag campaign is just to collect supporters and inundate the public and our leaders with, 'We've got to do something now,'" she said. 

'We can't keep waiting'

Inuit in Nunavut have long recognized that the numbers of suicide in the territory are of crisis proportions

In January 2014, Nunavut's coroner announced she would hold an inquest into the "epidemic" after a record 45 people in the territory took their own lives in 2013 — the highest number ever recorded in Nunavut, population 36,000. 

The territory has had a suicide prevention strategy in place since 2010 and the issue has been the subject of multiple studies

Aglukark says that's not enough.

"We can't keep waiting for reports and everything like that. We've got to do something now."

The singer, who rose to fame after releasing her "Arctic Rose" album in 1992, says she's been waiting for the perfect time to launch this campaign. 

The Aboriginal Pavilion offered that moment. 

"We are in a battle to save our future through our children and our youth," she said. 

And the record high rates of suicide may just be a symptom of the many diverse issues facing aboriginal youth in Canada. 

"That tells you that our children are calling out for help," she said. "We need to help them now."

Aglukark is planning events for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.

And she encourages people across Canada to send in their war cries, using the hashtag, before that time.

"When a whole group of people do that together you have to listen," she says. 

"Just put your war cry out there. Just make people listen." 

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