OTTAWA, Ontario – Like all Canadians, we have been heartbroken to learn about the recent suicides in First Nation communities in Saskatchewan. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and communities who have been affected.
No community should ever be faced with circumstances that lead to their young people losing hope. We are determined to work with First Nation youth and leaders, as well as the Government of Saskatchewan, on both the immediate response to this crisis and long-term community-driven solutions.
Health Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada are working closely with Lac La Ronge and the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation on the way forward. Together, we are establishing stronger relationships with both the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and the community of Deschambault Lake to ensure we are listening to their needs and working with their strengths as they lead the response to the crisis in their communities.
Health Canada has ensured the mental health workers and other health care professionals requested by the communities are available. In Stanley Mission, Health Canada is providing supports to partner organizations to allow seven mental health therapists to provide counselling to at-risk youth seven days a week. This is over and above the $34 million that is being provided to partners this year in Saskatchewan for mental health programs.
Sadly, Saskatchewan is not alone in facing these crises. This is why in June we announced $69 million in funding to implement crisis response teams and increase the number of mental wellness teams available to First Nations and Inuit communities. We have also put into place a national, toll-free 24/7 culturally appropriate crisis intervention line. Counselling is available in English and French and, upon request, in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktut. If you are in distress and need help, the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line is available at 1-855-242-3310.
To truly improve the health and wellbeing of and foster hope in Indigenous communities, we must work in genuine partnership with Indigenous communities. Most importantly, we need to listen to the voices of our young people and to support their ideas on promoting a secure personal and cultural identity. We are committed to supporting language and cultural programmes and traditional healing and will ensure that the health care provided is culturally safe.
We know communities need more than short-term fixes, which is why our Government is focused on supporting long-term investments. To advance the vital work of reconciliation, Budget 2016 provides historic investments to education, child welfare, housing and infrastructure, including cultural and recreation infrastructure, based on community solutions. From coast to coast to coast, this new funding will support the construction, service or renovation of 2,700 housing units, as well as 195 water projects — including 26 that address long-term drinking water advisories — 118 schools and 126 other new infrastructure projects this fiscal year alone.
Our children are our future and we cannot afford to lose a single one to despair. We are committed to working together with Indigenous youth, leaders and communities to promote healing and to help our youth find hope so that we can end the tragedy of suicide.
The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs