Saskatoon

'We're just tired of waiting': Northern Sask. meeting aims to combat rash of suicides

Community organizers from across northern Saskatchewan are meeting in Buffalo Narrows, Sask., this week to talk about strategies to deal with suicide.

Social worker says government efforts haven't worked; Wednesday meeting to focus on forming strategy

A group of community organizers have planned a two-day meeting in Buffalo Narrows, Sask., to talk about suicide in northern Saskatchewan. (www.learningsupportcentre.com)

Holly Toulejour says she's tired of waiting.

A social worker at Dene High School in La Loche, Sask., Toulejour says communities across northern Saskatchewan have been reporting a rash of suicides over the past year. While government support has been pledged, she says it hasn't worked.

"We're just tired of waiting for someone else to come in and do something," she told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "It doesn't feel like there's any political will or action in the north."

As a result, a group of people from across northern Saskatchewan are meeting in Buffalo Narrows — about 430 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon — Wednesday evening to come up with a locally crafted suicide prevention strategy.

"If someone is going to solve the issues in the north, it shouldn't be someone with a postal code in Regina," she said.

Toulejour went on to ask that a state of emergency be called over the suicides, similar to one deployed in northern Ontario in Attawapiskat First Nation, and that more resources be offered.

"We don't have the same playing field as someone down south," she said. "We don't have the same resources or supports."

She hopes the two-day gathering will allow northerners to come up with innovative solutions to the issue. Toulejour believes cultural camps, similar to ones set up by the Heiltsuk Nation in British Columbia, would be an important piece to the puzzle.

"When you have people who have been colonized, and have all that history of residential school abuse, of course people are going to feel hopeless," she said.

"We still have our language, and that gives me hope, because that is our medicine."

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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