Ottawa

Protesters demand action on Attawapiskat suicide crisis

About 50 demonstrators gathered outside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Gatineau to call on the federal government to take action on the suicide crisis unfolding in Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.

Demonstrators gathered to bring attention to the crisis in the remote northern Ontario community

Demonstrators at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Gatineau on April 15, 2016.

About 50 demonstrators gathered outside the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Gatineau on Friday to call on the federal government to take action on the suicide crisis unfolding in Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.

Kevin Daniels, nephew of prominent Métis leader Harry Daniels, said he came to the Gatineau protest to bring attention to the plight of Indigenous men and women on and off reserves. (CBC)

The latest protest follows similar demonstrations in Toronto and Winnipeg this week.

Earlier this month, the chief and council of the remote community on James Bay declared a state of emergency after 11 people attempted to take their own lives on a single night. 

The Cree community is home to about 2,000 residents. A total of 101 people — between the ages of 11 and 71 — have tried to kill themselves since September.

On Friday morning, a dozen police officers in Gatineau blocked the entrance to the federal office, refusing to allow protesters inside the building even to use the washroom.

'You just can't stay silent'

Jocelyn Iahtail wants the federal government to act quickly to address the poor living conditions in her community. (CBC)
Jocelyn Iahtail, who is originally from Attawapiskat, said her community is in dire need of help.

"We need people to have the compassion and kindness to hear the pleas of our people. You can't allow this to continue. And you cannot stay silent. You just can't stay silent," she said.

Iahtail said suicide has been an issue in her community for decades — and it's time that others know what's happening.

"We need other people to be saying that it's not okay to dehumanise our people, to subjugate and oppress our people," she said.

Some demonstrators, including Iahtail, were eventually allowed inside the building to meet with government officials. Another meeting has been scheduled for Monday.

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