Justin Trudeau to meet Attawapiskat chief in wake of more suicide attempts

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted an invitation to meet with the chief of Attawapiskat in Ottawa.

'I stand with all of you as we work together to forge a durable solution for the youth in Attawapiskat'

Trudeau to meet Attawapiskat Chief 1:18

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted an invitation to meet with the chief of Attawapiskat in Ottawa

In a letter addressed to Chief Bruce Shisheesh late Thursday, Trudeau said he is deeply concerned with the suicide crisis in the James Bay community, and that with the "urgency and gravity of this situation in mind" he has agreed to see Shisheesh at a mutually convenient time.

"I'm excited to meet the prime minister," said Shisheesh. "I look forward to visiting him and talking to him person to person. Also, to talk to him nation to nation.

"It means a lot knowing that I'm going to be heard," he said.

Shisheesh sent a letter to Trudeau earlier this week asking for a meeting, citing nine more suicide attempts in his community.

Attawapiskat has been under a state of emergency over the number of suicide atttempts since April. ​

"While the efforts of your ministers is appreciated to date, it falls short [of] finding a permanent solution for our youth," Shisheesh wrote to the prime minister.

Trudeau wants to meet with youth

Trudeau told reporters on Friday that he looks forward to meeting Shisheesh. He said he also wants to see the young people of Attawapiskat.

"Meeting with them, understanding their concerns, and giving them the opportunities and the capacity to fulfil their extraordinary potential is a priority for us," he said. 

In his letter to Shisheesh, Trudeau said he plans to meet with youth from the communities of Mushkegowuk Tribal Council and Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and to speak with elected officials about the challenges they face in their communities.

"I am agonized to see the number of suicide attempts by young people in Attawapiskat," Trudeau said.

"I wish to express my sincere support for the families and community members who are affected by this tragic situation."

Trudeau has committed $8.4 billion over five years towards Indigenous infrastructure, culture, education, health and opportunities.

A trip to Attawapiskat in the works?

I am agonized to see the number of suicide attempts by young people in Attawapiskat.- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  

So far, Trudeau has not announced official plans to fly to Attawapiskat.

But in his letter to Shisheesh, he said he looks forward to visiting the community in the near future. 

"I stand with all of you as we work together to forge a durable solution for the youth in Attawapiskat," he said.

Health Minister Jane Philpott is also expected to visit the community soon.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.