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OPSEU backs call for national strategy on Aboriginal suicide


Toronto – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has expressed deep concern over a string of suicide attempts at the Attawapiskat First Nation. Krista Maracle, Chair of OPSEU’s Aboriginal Circle, said it was imperative that a just and effective solution be found.

“Handwringing and statements of sympathy solve nothing,” she said. “OPSEU strongly supports Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day’s call for a national strategy to fight the suicide epidemic affecting First Nations communities and uproot its systemic causes.”

Maracle pointed to the 2016 report of the Mushkegowuk Council’s inquiry into the crisis. The report concluded that residential schools, the loss of language and culture, and substance abuse were factors leading to suicide – findings that mirror those of the Truth and Reconciliation Report.

At OPSEU’s 2015 Convention, members committed to funding projects that provide healthy and affordable food to northern Indigenous communities, recognizing that systemic poverty and inequality are the cause of much of the despair facing Indigenous communities.

“Obviously we know that decent nourishment won’t solve the suicide crisis,” Maracle said. “Only a national strategy can begin to address that – one developed with, and implemented by, the communities most impacted.

“Indigenous communities already know what an effective national strategy would look like. They just need partners to help make it a reality.”

Warren (Smokey) Thomas echoed Maracle’s comments. The union president said OPSEU and its National Union would be working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, governments at all levels, and other partners and stakeholders from coast to coast to coast to arrive at a viable and long-term solution.

“Make no mistake about it,” Thomas said. “Our members are in this for the long haul. OPSEU will travel this path with our Indigenous sisters and brothers every step of the way to a bright and promising future – a future where despair has given way to hope and opportunity.”

For more information: Krista Maracle, Chair, OPSEU Aboriginal Circle, 647-200-4036