Youth suicide in Ontario First Nation underscores 'fourth world' conditions, MPP says
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa rose in legislature in September, spoke of 13-year-old's suicide
A northern Ontario MPP says the suicide of a 13-year-old girl almost three weeks ago in Bearskin Lake First Nation underscores the widespread "inequity" in remote communities.
"The MPPs and the people down here, they're very unaware of what's happening in the backyard of Ontario," Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa said, adding that includes knowledge of, and issues surrounding, "the inequity, the inequality that exists."
Mamakwa rose at Queen's Park on Sept. 20, and spoke about the death of Karlena Kamenawatamin, 13, by suicide, pressing the Ontario government to do more to stop the "pandemic" of Indigenous youth suicides. After that day's session, Mamakwa said that he spoke with Lisa MacLeod, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Greg Rickford, the Indigenous Affairs Minister.
The New Democrat MPP said the discussions surrounded how to best help the community in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Moving forward, Mamakwa said conditions on-reserve and how to best address them need to stay among the legislature's priorities.
Those include access, not only to mental health, but healthcare in general, education, safe housing, clean drinking water and economic development, he said.
"Some of the stuff that's happened, I kind of put it in a fourth-world condition, whereby it's third-world conditions sometimes in a rich province like Ontario," he said.
"And I want to be able to bring attention to these issues and ... we talk about access to health, First Nations communities are a minus in that regard."
Mamakwa added that many communities struggle with the other social basics, like access to education and secure living conditions.
"Sometimes the systems that are there forget our people," he said. "I realize these are colonial systems; I realize the structures that are in place, the policies, the programs, do not reflect the needs of our people and they don't ... work with us."