My Thoughts XVIII: A Letter to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller
Today, June 11th, 2020 I sent an email to Mr. Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services:
"On the 27th of December, 2019 I wrote the following email and sent it to Mrs. Carolyn Bennett:
"... I am writing this email to ask Mrs. Bennett and the government of Canada to take a more serious approach to the suicides among First Nations people. I am sure that members of government know about the problem of suicide, as the news of Inuit singer Kelly Fraser dead at 27 is on every Canadian news channel this weekend.
Her death is a tragedy but her death is just one of too many. I was in Attawapiskat about ten years ago. At a refueling stop, I sat and talked to a young Cree man. He was returning to Kashetchewan from his cousin's funeral. He told me just three month before that, his uncle had committed suicide too. Sigh ... what else can I say? What other members of parliament do we need to talk to, in order for this problem to be taken more seriously? On my return to Toronto in a meeting with Mr. Bob Rae, he told me that he had been to Attawapiskat in the 80's. These are his words: "Not much has changed since then." Outrageous but I'm not even angry anymore. I'm just terribly sad. This cannot continue.
Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation at Loon Lake has had recently a ten year old commit suicide, among others. If this is not a national emergency, I am not sure what is. The trauma continues; all across this country. Shameful and the shame is on us all. This is not what "keeping Canadians safe" means. We need solutions."
Here is what a CBC article said about a week ago (May 13th, 2020): "A band councillor for a Saskatchewan First Nation is speaking out after a rash of suicide attempts in the past few weeks on his reserve.
Dustin Ross Fiddler of Waterhen Lake First Nation said a 14-year-old girl recently died by suicide and that he is aware of 10 other recent attempts."
You know, we have learned from this pandemic that one person dying from covid-19 is one too many. We have sat at home for months on end now to "save lives". Why is it that we can stop our entire lives from operating as an entire country, when non-Indigenous people are dying but when Indigenous people are dying, it's just another day in the books?
Why is it that we can spend billions on a daily basis on a myriad of different things as we see nowadays but when we talk about helping the First Nations, all we get are platitudes from Monsieur Justin? No, please don't send me a list of money that was spent. We do not necessarily always need money thrown at problems. If a house is burning and I throw bills on it, does it stop burning? No. We need solutions.
As a quick example: recognizing unceded territories does not require money. It requires honesty and good will. That's all.
What would unceded territories have to do with little children committing suicide, one might ask? Well, it does because it is part of reconciliation. Recognizing First Nation territories would signal an end to oppression and the stealing of land from First Nations. It would allow healing to begin to take place. There is no healing now. All there is is denial on one side (the gov't) and hurt on the other side (the Natives).
There are many things the government of Canada can do. I ask the Minister to take a pro-active stance on the important issues which have not been properly addressed for hundreds of years: treaties and rights of Indigenous people. We have to go back to the Treaties. Not a fun job, I know but we have to. Otherwise we'll keep fighting each other, children will keep dying and the mistrust will only increase. I for one will not stop. I cannot stop. We'll keep beating those drums.
What is the plan on your side? Young children are dying in this country. The plan ... ? Sigh."