Monday, March 2, 2009

Aboriginal Youth Losing Hope! Does Canada care?

I write this with a heavy heart. On Saturday morning, a 17 year old girl from my school killed herself; it was the morning after a 21 year old was laid to rest after killing herself the weekend before. She was the fourth student from my school to do this since June 18, 2008. In addition, our neighbours from the reserve lost a student to suicide in December and one of our feeder schools lost a student in August. We are reeling as we hear of more and more attempts! It is becoming normal to deal with a grieving student while at school; it certainly does not fit in with the continuous improvement framework that we are hearing so much about but are unable to attain. I keep asking myself why is this going on? Unfortunately, this reality is not unique to this community; other aboriginal communities are suffering in similar ways.

Where is the hope? These communities have been ravaged by the long lasting negative effects of colonialism and to this day continue to be victimized by a society that appears not to care. These kids that are killing themselves are/were loved; in fact, were good people. Yet, the conditions that bring them to the brink are being largely ignored by mainstream society. Aboriginal people in this country continue to be the most disadvantaged people in our society and yet politically it appears to be o-kay with most Canadians as there is no outcry that things need to change.

As Canadians, we need to look at our shameful past, we need to acknowledge the wrongs that were done to our aboriginal peoples, and we need to empower aboriginal communities to work with their youth to give them hope. It won't be cheap; services need to be brought to the communities, and healing has to happen on so many levels. We have to do something or the history books will be painting us no better than that of our ancestors who at times deliberately infected aboriginal communities with the smallpox virsus causing dramatic reductions in aboriginal populations.

To find out more about aboriginal suicide visit:


Kim said...

Stephen, it saddens me to read your posting. I don't know the appropriate words to write. Please know that I am sorry for the loss you and your community is experiencing.

Alec Couros said...

I've unfortunately had very similar experiences to you over the years in my professional and personal life (mostly wife's family). I can only give my condolences, and really do hope that we can do something to create healthier communities. There is simply too much tragedy that is ignored and repeated, and the province really needs to put real support into the communities and their people.