Statement: Solidarity With Attawapiskat First Nation Youth and Occupy INAC

*pic: FB Occupy INAC Victory Rally and Press Conference*

Tiohtià:ke/Montreal – Missing Justice stands in solidarity with Attawapiskat First Nation and the Occupy INAC movement in their calls to address the systemic issues that have led a growing number of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth to take their own lives. We call upon the government to fulfill the commitments it has made to Attawapiskat First Nation, to heed the demands of the Occupy INAC movement, and to address ongoing discrimination against Indigenous communities.

Deep and ongoing historic injustices and violence, which have been expressed in discriminatory state policies and practices since colonization, have taken their toll on Indigenous communities. This includes the imposition of the Indian act, residential schools, the 60s scoop, the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in the foster system, inaction on the feminicide against Indigenous women, and chronic underfunding of Indigenous communities. As a result of these contributing factors, Indigenous young people are more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youth; Two-Spirit youth are particularly vulnerable in this context.

We applaud the gains that have been made by Attawapiskat First Nation and, in particular, Attawapiskat youth. This includes government commitments such as the following: building a youth centre; establishing programming support for cultural and social activities both in the community and on the land; and rehabilitating the local healing centre so it can be used as a treatment centre for those in crisis.

The Occupy INAC movement in Vancouver achieved another important victory, with the Council of Mothers securing a meeting with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Canadian Heritage to discuss their demands. As Onodaga mother Jerrilyn Webster states, “The meeting we have secured to discuss funding for Indigenous languages and Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth is a victory. But we know this is not about one meeting, we need long-term commitment and accountability from this government.”

Participants in the Colonialism No More Solidarity Camp continue their peaceful demonstration outside of the INAC office in Regina. Their preliminary demands were met this week, with senior INAC administrators finally meeting with them, as well as re-opening the doors of the INAC office to the public.

We are heartened by the resilience and leadership expressed by Attawapiskat youth and their community, as well as Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, and solidarity demonstrated during the Occupy INAC movement. We send our love to the communities and families that have been impacted by suicide, as well as to young people struggling with depression and other mental health challenge