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Govt worry as people in indigenous Canadian community begin to commit suicide

OTTAWA: Canadian government officials said Monday they were sending an emergency psychiatric team to an isolated aboriginal community to deal with a rash of suicide attempts after 11 residents tried to kill themselves this month.

The team was expected to arrive in Attawapiskat, a community of 2,000 on the shores of James Bay in northern Ontario province, in the coming days.

Health Minister Jane Philpott said Ottawa was working on an emergency response to address the community’s immediate needs and ensure that mental health resources were in place.

Attawapiskat chief Bruce Shisheesh was quoted by Canada’s public broadcaster as saying there had been about 100 suicide attempts in the town in the last six months, by people aged as young as 11 and as old as 71.

The rate of suicide attempts accelerated at the start of April, he said, with eleven recorded during the first nine days of the month.

Gross poverty and desperation are rampant in many aboriginal communities, breeding abuse, suicide and crime.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett called for “a long-term strategy” to provide better education, housing and resources to bolster native culture and to “give children hope.”

“These investments to secure personal cultural identity is how these kids feel proud of themselves and where they’re going,” she said.

Last month, five teenagers and a young mother killed themselves on the Pimicikamak reservation about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Winnipeg.

And the Inuit community of Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec is still mourning the deaths of five people aged 15 to 20 from mid-December to mid-March.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has vowed to try to reverse the trend by funneling Can$8.4 billion in last month’s budget into education, housing and other needs in indigenous communities over five years.

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