Ontario government responds to Wapekeka First Nation emergency
Remote First Nation declared state of emergency after 3rd 12-year-old girl died by suicide
Ontario's Minister of Indigenous Relations says the province is working with the federal government as well as local and Indigenous leaders in response to a state of emergency in Wapekeka First Nation.
The remote First Nation of about 400 people, located approximately 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., declared the emergency in the wake of a third 12-year-old girl's suicide since January and other reported attempts. The community asked for an immediate response from Ontario and provision of the necessary services for the community.
The three girls, Jolynn Winter, Chantel Fox and Jenera Roundsky, were involved in a suicide pact, according to community leaders. A band council resolution from the First Nation declaring the emergency noted "another serious attempt" was made since Monday.
"Our Ministry continues to play a coordinating role in responding to the declared social emergency ... drawing upon the support and expertise of our partners in federal government departments, provincial ministries and regional authorities," said a statement to CBC News from Minister David Zimmer.
"When appropriate, we will also continue to engage directly with Wapekeka First Nation about how to best serve their individual community needs."
According to community officials in Wapekeka, 15 young people died by suicide between 1989 and 1999 during a previous epidemic. Nearly 40 youth are currently considered to be at risk. That number represents about 10 per cent of the First Nation's population.
The province said last week, it committed $50,000 after a separate request by the First Nation for sport and recreation equipment along with wilderness supplies like canoes for youth. That's to support recreation and other outdoor activities.
The money is also earmarked for other related costs like travel for families and other emergency measures, the province said.
"Provincial and federal officials are also reviewing proposals submitted by the First Nation for a youth center," Zimmer's statement continued, adding that that project is under the federal government's jurisdiction, as well as a three-year plan dealing with recreational activity for young people.
With files from Jody Porter