So it was revealed today Attawapiskat is having another emergency, this time a wave of suicide attempts Saturday and today. This is far too common in Canadian First Nation communities. The previous emergency that made global headlines, the shelter and food crises, ended up with its own Tragically Hip song. Back then everything was supposed to improve for these remote communities.
Maybe a picture of a child suicide will motivate Canadians to help First Nations the way a dead toddler motivated Canadians to help Syrian refugees. Not that a quick, sensational headline and picture is going to fix anything. Perhaps a mandatory look at the inhumane conditions we keep people in will wake people up. Coincidently, my iTunes library started playing Midnight Oil’s Beds are Burning, a song written in the 80s about injustice towards Indigenous Peoples. My how little has changed in three decades.
The current crises is a mental health crises, but how can you fix the mental health crises without dealing with the physical health crises, or the economic crises? The fact this whole situation is artificially created by our indifference, our failure to live up to our side of the Treaties, and our active policies of genocide. Seriously, the Reserve system of North America inspired the British concentration camps in South Africa which lead to Nazi death camps. Throw in the abusive residential school system to reprogram and Canada has nothing to be proud of.
Maybe this time we can get past our failed policy and try something radical, like developing a national mental health strategy with maximum wait times for treatment and shifting resources across the country as needed. We shouldn’t care which level of government is reaching into our bank accounts to pay for it as long as people get the help they need. How much is the current system costing Canada for such terrible results?
The cost of eating healthy in remote communities makes junk food cheaper than healthy foods. Instead of keeping remote communities hostage to oil prices and other air or shipping costs let’s build each community a hydroponics facility. We could use it as a model for space exploration. Heating these facilities with geothermal, and powering the communities with wind, solar and other renewables could help Canada’s remote communities be the first to evolve past the primitive fossil economy. At very least it will create a few jobs. Throw in 3D print on demand technology and the corresponding training and these communities will become more independant.
A greater use of remote technologies to access education will also provide hope and economic activities. For places like Attawapiskat having a terabyte internet service for $25 a month could transform the local economy. Let’s set a deadline of June 2022 for every remote community in Canada having such a service available. That gives us six years to do it, any longer it will be neglected, any shorter it will result in over payments.
It isn’t a coincidence that Germany has free education and is usually one of the first economies to recover from economic downturns. Easier access to higher education will do more for Canada’s economy than million kilometres of pipeline or road. Remove the tuition barrier once and for all in Canada and the small minority who would abuse such a system are not enough to justify punishing everyone else with ever increasing fees that leaves people a hostage to creditors.
We don’t need another round of reports, commissions, tribunals, or discussions in Canada, we need to read the results of all the previous ones and actually implement recommendations. It is a Canadian failure that we discuss things to the point where the status quo is all we’re left with. Then another crises gets noticed and we rehash the discussion points again until the herd loses interest.
It is easy to feel hopeless when malnourished, inactive, ignored, and trapped by barriers created to divide and rule society. Unfortunately the chances of this crises changing anything is slim to none. We’re so encultured to focus on the short term fiscal bottom line we seem to have lost the ability to count the costs in lives.