Sask. Premier Brad Wall says work still needed in province's north

Premier Brad Wall said one of his proudest moments in 2016 was seeing Saskatchewan residents' response to the tragedy in La Loche, Sask. The premier said there's still work to be done to increase support for northern communities, and those in the communities have been tirelessly advocating for change.

Wall said increased supports needed

Brad Wall sits down with CBC's Jill Morgan for a year-end interview. (CBC)

As Saskatchewan's premier looks at cutting human resources staffing in the province, he's reflecting on tragedy that struck the north in 2016.

Brad Wall said one of his proudest moments of the year was seeing Saskatchewan residents' response to shootings in La Loche, Sask., and to the suicides of six young girls in northern communities.

"We have a lot of work to do there," Wall told CBC News in a year-end interview.

Wall said increased supports are needed for northern communities and residents have been tirelessly advocating for change.

However, in the same interview, Wall said "everything must be on the table" as the province looks for both revenue opportunities and expenditure reductions to chip away at Saskatchewan's billion-dollar deficit.

He noted 60 per cent of the province's expenditures go to human resources wages.

Recognizing resources needed

Wall visited La Loche in the days following shootings that left four dead and seven others injured. During those visits, he said he learned of fundamentally basic things that weren't working.

"We've added some resources in terms of Dene speaking resources on the education side; we've added a bit on the mental health side," he said.

Children take part in the Reclaiming Our School walk in La Loche, Sask. (Matt Kruchak/CBC)

"We found out when we were there that the X-ray machine didn't work," he added.

Youth suicide crisis

Wall also visited northern Saskatchewan in November to meet with Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge Indian Band to discuss mental health supports following the suicides of six teenage girls in northern Saskatchewan.

"She had been advocating for a mental health centre in the area," said Wall.

"That would be meaningful support and we hope to engage the federal government on it. We would obviously need to do our part as well."

While mental health and addictions services are available, as are youth workers, some people in La Ronge, Sask., say there isn’t much help for suicide or crisis intervention. (Don Somers/CBC)

Wall said the provincial health and finance ministers have been engaged in a dialogue with the federal government about Indigenous health and northern mental health issues, and he hopes the province and federal government can partner in making those supports available.

With files from Jill Morgan