AFN National Chief calls for immediate action to deal with state of emergency in Attawapiskat

OTTAWA — Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today called for immediate action and long-term support for community based prevention strategies in response to the state of emergency declared by the leadership of Attawapiskat First Nation to address the overwhelming number of suicide attempts in the northern Ontario First Nations community.

“The situation facing the people of Attawapiskat is a national tragedy that demands immediate action and I have reached out to Chief Bruce Shisheesh to offer our full support,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “I have spoken with Federal Health Minister Philpott and Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins to request immediate resources to deal with this crisis – both on the short and long term. Both Ministers reassured me that they are moving swiftly to work with the community in the wake of this weekend’s terrible events.”

“The situation in Attawapiskat is sadly felt by far too many First Nations across the country,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We need a First Nations directed national strategy to address First Nations suicide rates and ensure our people are safe and thriving. We need a sustained commitment to address long-standing issues that lead to hopelessness among our peoples, particularly the youth. And, we need to see investments from the federal budget on the ground in our communities immediately – to support our families to enjoy safe and thriving communities that foster hope.”

On Saturday, Attawapiskat First Nation leadership declared a state of emergency in response to a number of suicide attempts. Reports indicate 11 people attempted suicide on April 9, and further reports have indicated 101 suicide attempts since September of this year. Last month, Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake) in Manitoba declared a state of emergency due to youth suicide.

AFN continues to support community-based approaches to prevent suicide, including programming and activities that help reduce suicide risk factors. This includes coping skills development, job readiness, recreational activities that decrease isolation and increase peer support and promote physical activity.  It also includes activities that increase healthy behaviours and problem solving and those that connect youth with Elders, their community and their culture.

The AFN also continues to support the full implementation of the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum framework which supports community development and quality care and competent service by transforming existing funding to better support First Nation communities to take the lead in achieving their own health and wellness goals. For more information on the Mental Wellness Continuum and other efforts please visit

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