The federal and provincial governments signed a letter of commitment with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) to support mental health and wellness services for Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan.
FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt said the agreement is important because it commits every level of government.
“What we have is our suicide prevention strategy, we got about nine recommendations in there that we’re looking to implement with our partners, Canada and Saskatchewan.”
The letter was signed on Thursday in Saskatoon by Pratt, Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding and a representative for Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller.
Pratt said in spite of everything Indigenous people have had to face, ceremonies and cultural teachings have been the most important guides.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a statement that the commitment will address suicide from a “holistic perspective,” which includes “strengthening our identity and connection to our cultures, reconnecting with our Elders, Knowledge keepers and the land.”
Kaeding said suicide is a serious and complex issue.
“We recognize that it will take the commitment of governments, communities and agencies working together to reduce the risk factors and prevent suicide,” Kaeding said.
Kaeding said this joint commitment with the FSIN fulfils a promise laid out in the government’s Pillars For Life bill.
The commitment signing comes two weeks after the province lost an application to remove the Walking With Our Angels teepee camp set up in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature building. Métis man Tristen Durocher walked from Air Ronge to Regina to raise awareness about suicide among Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan.
Durocher said he wanted to do the walk after the Saskatchewan assembly turned down a bill by the opposition that promised to consult with Indigenous leaders, communities and families in suicide prevention.
“We are committing to knowledge sharing, transparency and accountability as we work together to build upon and improve suicide prevention initiatives in this province,” Kaeding said.
Kaeding said the declaration will bring together families and communities affected by suicide to hear ideas on what is needed to prevent suicide in the province.
“While these conversations are underway our government will continue to advance the many other actions that are identified in our suicide prevention plan including engaging with other ministries, community organizations, mental health professionals and many others,” Kaeding said.
Pillars for Life plan
Kaeding said the provincial government is spending $435 million on mental health and addictions support and services this year. Included in this total, Kaeding said, is over $1.2 million to support the year one actions of the Pillars for Life plan.
Along with the Pillars for Life plan, the commitment is part of the FSIN suicide prevention strategy and the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework.
A statement from Miller said the elevated suicide rates among Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan are “deeply concerning.”
“It is essential that all jurisdictions work collaboratively to enhance the delivery of culturally appropriate mental wellness supports and effective interventions that respects Indigenous perspectives and guidance,” Miller said in a statement.