TORONTO, April 26, 2016 /CNW/ - For many Canadians, home is a place of peace, calm and safety. For the Aboriginal young people of Attawapiskat, the last two months have been a far cry from what we take for granted to be the image of home. As we speak, the young people of Attawapiskat are caught in a struggle of trying to understand why there have been more than 60 suicide attempts in their community.
I spent five days in the community of Attawapiskat as they try to understand what is needed to ensure the safety and peace of mind of children, youth and adult members of this community of 2,100 members. I have walked with, and listened to the young people in this community as they embrace the possibilities of healing and helping each other gain strength to take on the sense of hopelessness that seems to be overtaking the community right now.
As always, I am impressed by the words and wisdom that young people bring to the table. The youth of Attawapiskat have spoken their truth, been honest about what they need and placed what little hope they hold in the hands of all of us who visited the community over the last three weeks to ask for help. All that is needed now is for us as adults and leaders of change to honour the promises we are making to Attawapiskat. As we pack our bags and return to our lives, we must take the commitments we made to these young people seriously. Hope is fragile, life is precious and childhood should not be scarred by thoughts of suicide, self-harming and overwhelming sadness.
As I returned to Toronto, I carried back with me the frustration and anger that comes from being a witness to some of the social and economic conditions in Attawapiskat; Homes overridden with mould, young people looking for activities to do, overcrowding due to a lack of sufficient housing for community members, and a need to improve the quality of water and eliminate food insecurity. These conditions the community is forced to live in fuel the hopelessness that is overtaking the community.
Over the last five days, I have seen the issues raised through the Feathers of Hope Youth Action Plan playing out in Attawapiskat. What I do not see is the reality of healing and reconciliation. It is my hope that as the weeks play out, we will see our federal and provincial leadership work closely with Attawapiskat and other communities who, like Attawapiskat, are struggling with the loss of hope that leaves death as a preferred option to life.
We can do better; but first, we must ask ourselves, why are we stuck here, while children and youth in our province are attempting to take their own lives? Change must begin and my Office will continue to stand with the young people of Attawapiskat to ensure the promises that were made to them are kept. We, in Canada, must ensure our political leaders honour the promises they make on our behalf. Our leaders must listen and make promises that show they not only listened and heard the community, but demonstrate that action tied to change works for communities like Attawapiskat.
Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).
The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on https://www.youtube.com/user/ProvincialAdvocate/featuredTwitter and Facebook.
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
For further information: Media Contact: Akihiko Tse, Communications, Media Relations Coordinator, (416)-325-5994, firstname.lastname@example.org, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth