Alarming Increase in Youth Suicide Rates Underscores Urgent Need for Change in the Status Quo in Manitoba
December 5, 2023
Treaty One, Manitoba – Recent data from the annual statistics released by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) has exposed unprecedented levels of youth suicide in Manitoba. In response, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) urgently calls for immediate and comprehensive measures to protect our young people, with a particular focus on those in care or aging out.
Grand Chief Cathy Merrick stated, “Historically, suicide was a rare occurrence among First Nations. It was only after contact with settlers and the subsequent effects of colonialism that suicide became more prevalent. Intergenerational trauma is one of the primary colonial effects contributing to the elevated rate of suicide among First Nations people, particularly those involved in the child welfare system.”
The higher risk of suicide in First Nations in Manitoba is a complex issue and depends on many distinct factors, including one’s mental health, substance use disorders, intergenerational trauma, and community-wide socioeconomic disparities. It is also critical to recognize the interplay of these several factors. We often forget about the role that being able to be employed, stay in one’s home Nation and have cultural continuity plays in one’s emotional well-being.
AMC recognizes the importance of the ability of First Nations to have control over essential services like health, education, child protection, language revitalization, and policing, which plays a significant role in taking control over one’s future. Emphasis on self-governance and secure access to traditional lands forms a long-known comprehensive framework for maintaining health and vitality for First Nations citizens. It is one of the reasons the AMC has been pressing for transferring and decentralizing services from Indigenous Services Canada to First Nations throughout this province, which would create opportunities that would go a long way.
“The heartbreaking loss of our First Nations youth in such high numbers is deeply distressing,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “We have such high rates of missing and murdered, the highest rates of homicide in the country and now the highest rates of suicide. Where is our Treaty partner to ensure that this stops? Since the late 1980s, the AMC has put forward multiple solutions aimed at fostering meaningful change for the well-being of children, youth, and Nations. Unfortunately, the continued disregard from both provincial and federal governments toward First Nations-led solutions has fed the ongoing cycle of these distressing deaths – these deaths by despair. This has gone on for far too long.”
The AMC remains committed to working with federal, provincial, and First Nations Leadership to address this urgent crisis. The AMC calls for an immediate stop to the status quo of conducting business and to start working with First Nations to support culturally relevant and First Nations-driven programming. It is time to break the cycle and ensure the well-being of our youth becomes a top priority.
For more information, please contact:
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs