Target: United States Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman
Goal: Provide assistance to aboriginal communities facing suicide epidemic.
After 11 teenagers attempted suicide, the community of Attawapiskat, one of 634 aboriginal Canadian communities known as First Nations, declared a state of emergency. Since September, over 100 suicide attempts have been recorded in this small community of approximately 2,000. Throughout the month of March alone, Attawapiskat saw 28 suicide attempts, an average of about one per day.
Factors that have contributed to this epidemic include severe overcrowding, lack of access to education, and widespread trauma caused by residential schools and Indian reservations. Between 1878 and 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations children were taken to institutions that sought to alienate them from their cultures. Horrific forms of abuse that occurred at these schools and reserves have had a lasting impact across generations of survivors and their children.
Attawapiskat, like all other First Nations, has struggled to recover from more than a century of exploitation and systematic degradation. Two years ago, Attawapiskat opened a proper elementary school for the first time in 14 years.
Insufficient resources and inhumane conditions are leaving community members in a state of despair and panic. Responses from the Canadian government have been far from sufficient, as only two mental health counselors were sent to Attawapiskat, and no changes have been made to a federal budget that allocates only $9,750 yearly for “National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy.”
Offering support to the people of Attawapiskat can benefit the United States domestically in addition to quelling an urgent humanitarian need. By participating in efforts to bring more education, housing, medical services and job opportunities to Canada’s First Nations, the American embassy in Canada can learn valuable information about efficient development methods. Importantly, a collaboration between the two countries can set the groundwork for future joint efforts at improving policies dealing with indigenous populations.
By signing the petition below, you are urging the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, to provide much needed aid to Attawapiskat and offer American support in the effort to improve quality of life in First Nation communities.
Dear Ambassador Bruce Heyman,
A state of emergency declared by the First Nation community of Attawapiskat cannot be ignored. Attempted suicides have become a daily phenomenon in Attawapiskat, whose population does not exceed 2,000. First Nation communities across Canada face similar struggles in providing their members with adequate living conditions.
Obstacles facing Attawapiskat and other First Nation communities include a lack of basic resources, such as housing, education and medical supplies. By providing this humanitarian assistance, the U.S. embassy can begin to foster a joint effort with Canada to create policies that effectively support North America’s indigenous populations.
I am urging you to offer the people of Attawapiskat, and other First Nation communities in crisis, the support of the U.S. embassy. The appalling standards of living faced by these people is wholly unnecessary, and a failure to respond to their outcry on the part of neighboring governments cannot continue.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: 40rev