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Canadian Parliament to Hold Emergency Session on Aboriginal Suicide Surge

FILE - A young woman from the Lakota nation wears traditional clothing at an event celebrating National Aboriginal Day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 21, 2011.

The Canadian parliament will hold an emergency debate in response to an aboriginal community that has declared a state of emergency following 11 suicide attempts by its members this past weekend. Twenty-eight suicide attempts were reported last month in the Northern-Canadian community of 2,000 people.

Nine of those 11 were minors. A nine-year-old and 12 others were brought to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation Monday, after having been overheard making a suicide pact.

Leaders of the community of Attawapiskat cite underlying despondency and pessimism among their people, as well as an increasing number of prescription drug overdoses in 2016, in trying to explain the widespread tragedy facing their community.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his commitment to improving living conditions for indigenous people, stating in a tweet Sunday that the news was "heartbreaking."

Isolation, economic challenges

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson who represents 30 aboriginal communities, said, "We feel isolated — we don't feel part of the rest of the world."

She described the economic challenges facing aboriginal communities throughout the country, saying "the basic needs are astronomical."

The isolated communities are often plagued by unemployment and sometimes lack access to clean drinking water, but all have Internet access, allowing them to see the rest of an affluent nation so different from their world.

Another Canadian aboriginal community in Manitoba applied for federal aid last month after 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

Canadian aboriginals make up about four percent of the country's population and have lower life expectancies and higher levels of poverty than other Canadians. They also have higher rates of violent crime, addiction and incarceration.

According to Health Canada, suicide is among the top causes of death for indigenous communities in Canada.

Last month, Canada announced it would devote more than $8 billion to improve the living conditions of the aboriginal population.