Michael J. Chandler

Want To Reduce Suicide in Native Communities? Step 1: Stop Destroying Native Land

Construction on the Site C dam on the Peace River

For the past couple weeks, Canadians have been wringing their hands about the suicide epidemic in the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, Manitoba.
 
In the community of 6,000, six people have killed themselves in two months and more than 140 suicide attempts have been made in two weeks, leading the First Nation to declare a state of emergency.
 
Much of the blame has been placed on historic injustices — the very real fall-out of colonization and the residential school system.
 
But another historic injustice has also come to light: hydro development — which can be traced back to the Northern Flood Agreement of 1977. That agreement forced people from their homes and disrupted hunting, trapping and fishing.
 
In 2015, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger personally apologized for the damage caused by hydro development to Cross Lake’s traditional land, way of life and cultural identity. He also acknowledged that Indigenous people were not properly consulted on the Jenpeg hydroelectric dam, 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

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