Date: Sun, 12 Dec 1999 11:31:00 -0500
From: Lynne Moss-Sharman <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: AFN chief promises pressure for suicide prevention


Chronicle Journal  Thunder Bay  Dec 11, 1999
Kimberly Hicks
Nishnawbe-Aski Nations  [EMAIL PROTECTED]

It's been two incredibly long and emotional weeks for Maggie Sakanee, the
mother of the teenaged girl who hung herself in the bedroom of her family's
home in Neskantaga First Nation. The Coroner's inquest wrapped up Thursday
night, when a five member jury made 41 recommendations aimed at saving
young people's lives. Sakanee sat quietly in the back of the room, her head
tilted forward as she fought back tears.  She managed to muster the courage
to stand before the jury and legal counsels and thank them for their hard

This inquest was tough on Sakanee.  She not only left the familiarity of
her home community to come 450 km south to Thunder Bay, but she relived
details about how she warned community workers about Selena's suicide
attempts.  Selena died on Nov. 23, 1997. She was 15 years old and the
victim of a sexual assault six months before taking her own life.

"I was always there for my children, but nobody was paying attention to
what I was saying about my daughter," said Sakanee.  she has a 22 year old
daughter, a 3 year old daughter, and a 15 year old son at home and she's
made it clear to them she's available to talk anytime if they are troubled
about their lives. Sakanee said the recommendations including suicide
prevention and the implementation of mental health plans, will make a
difference to young people in the North.

"Basically I guess when young people talk about suicide or sexual assault,
I hope somebody really listens to them," said Sakanee, before heading back
to Neskantaga on Friday.  

The jury endorsed recommendations in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Youth Forum
on Suicide released in 1996 somthing NAN Deputy Chief James Morris was
directly involved in. "To me the inquest into the death of a young girl and
the findings reaffirm everything that we've been telling governments that
we have to do," he said. Morris was especially happy to see standards for
training of on-reserve family workers and the call for increased treatment
facilities for alcohol, drug and sexual abuse.

Morris, a witness at the inquest, said he will track these recommendations
and keep pressure on the government to make sure they're followed up.
Suicide is one of the AFN Chief Phil Fontaine's top priorities. "We've
taken this issue very seriously," said Fontaine of the suicide problem. "We
are very aware of the challenges and every recommendation that has been
made and will be made about suicides. I think (suicide) needs to be
considered very seriously." Fontaine said he supports a more positive
approach where communities are made aware of the achievements and
accomplishments of role models in First Nations communities. "We need to do
something about giving our people hope, we need to do everything that's
necessary to ensure that our people are able to take advantage of
opportunities that others take for granted." 

Indian Affairs Minister Bob Nault said so far attempts to tackle the
suicide problem haven't worked, so he is open to suggestions. "Anyone who
will give us some recommendations about how to deal with suicide, that's so
important to me as the representative for a large aboriginal population and
for Northern Ontario in general as the regional minister.

               "Let Us Consider The Human Brain As
                A Very Complex Photographic Plate"
                     1957 G.H. Estabrooks

                    FOR   K A R E N  #01182
                   who died fighting  4/23/99

                   [EMAIL PROTECTED]

    For people like me, violence is the minotaur; we spend our lives
        wandering its maze, looking for the exit.  (Richard Rhodes)
                   Never befriend the oppressed 
                    unless you are prepared to 
                    take on the oppressor.   
                        (Author unknown)

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