National focus needed on suicide crisis among Indigenous youth

Perry Bellegarde

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is calling on the federal government to create a national suicide-prevention strategy for young people.

The plea comes as a suicide crisis grips a First Nation in northern Saskatchewan.

Chief Perry Bellegarde told a special assembly of chiefs from across Canada that action must be taken to stop Indigenous youth from feeling so hopeless that they are resorting to self-harm.

The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation has raised concerns in recent weeks about "cluster suicides" in the community, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Band leaders say eight people, mostly youths, have tried taking their lives since the First Nation declared a state of crisis in mid-November.

That came after three suicides over three weeks -- including one of a 10-year-old girl.

Bellegarde also called for more aggressive action on climate change as a way to offer more hope to young people.

He says the time is now for bold vision and decisive action.