Accessibility links

Breaking News

Canadian Community Declares Emergency after 11 Suicide Attempts

FILE - Traditional clothing is worn during an event to celebrate National Aboriginal Day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 23, 2011. More than 1 million Canadians are of Aboriginal origin, and the nation has more than 600 recognized First Nations governments.

The aboriginal community of Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario has declared a state of emergency after 11 of its members attempted suicide this past weekend. Twenty-eight suicide attempts were reported last month in the Northern-Canadian community of 2,000 people.

Bruce Shisheesh, chief of the community, tweeted Monday that Canadian health authorities were flying in a crisis team of mental health nurses and social workers. Federal agency Health Canada also said it had sent two mental health counselors as part of that unit.

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

Another Canadian aboriginal community in Manitoba applied for federal aid last month after seeing 140 suicide attempts in just 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 Health Canada, suicide is among the top causes of death for indigenous communities in Canada.

"This is a systemic crisis affecting the region," said Charlie Angus, a member of parliament. "There has just not been a serious response from any level of government until now."