On behalf of all CUPE members, National President Paul Moist is offering his condolences to Chief Peter Moonias and the people of Neskantaga First Nation in the wake of the tragic suicides that have put this community into mourning.
Neskantaga First Nation is a small, isolated community in northern Ontario that is struggling with poverty, poor housing and inadequate education and health care. Drug and alcohol addiction and a high rate of suicide are the result of this ongoing legacy of colonialism.
The community declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.
“CUPE joins with the Assembly of First Nations and others in offering our heartfelt sympathy to the people of Neskantaga First Nation,” said Moist. “We’re calling on the governments of Canada and Ontario to provide this community with immediate assistance as its members struggle to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.”
CUPE is also supporting the AFN’s call for a “comprehensive, sustained approach” to prevention and mental wellness services in the community. Many of CUPE’s Aboriginal members come from isolated communities where families come first. They witness firsthand the service gaps that exist in First Nations communities, and the need for joint collaboration between Nations in the short and long term.
The community of Neskantaga is also under pressure to respond to proposed mining projects by the mining industry and the provincial and federal governments in the nearby Ring of Fire mining development. The development of the area is occurring under the federal government’s new, looser environmental regulations, designed to speed up the approvals process for projects which may have serious implications for the integrity of the environment.