‘Urgent action is needed’: PM Trudeau pledges $70M over 3 years to address Indigenous mental health
The Liberal government will invest nearly $70 million in new funding over three years to address the health and suicide crisis involving Indigenous people living on reserve and in the territories, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today following a meeting with Indigenous youth.
“While we will continue to engage Indigenous partners in finding long-term solutions to these pressing issues, we know that urgent action is needed — and it is needed now — to address the health and mental wellness crises being faced by Indigenous people,” Trudeau said in a written statement Monday afternoon.
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The announcement comes as Trudeau is meeting with Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh, whose northern Ontario community has seen multiple cases of youth drug overdoses and suicide attempts in recent months.
The new funding will provide “urgently” needed mental health services while the Trudeau government continues to work Indigenous leaders on a long-term plan.
The new measures include:
- “Four crisis response teams to provide surge capacity for rapid response services and crisis co-ordination in regions in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut that are identified as having the greatest need.”
- “An increase in the number of mental wellness teams from 11 to 43 for communities most at risk in order to strengthen community supports.”
- “Training for existing community-based workers to ensure that care services are provided in a culturally appropriate and competent way.”
- “The establishment of a 24-hour “culturally safe” crisis response line.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose Timmins-James Bay riding includes Attawapiskat, was invited to take part in the prime minister’s meeting with some 20 youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation from northern Ontario.
“I’m very pleased the prime minister sat down and gave so much time to the Treaty 9 youth. These young people really are ground zero of the catastrophe that is facing Indigenous young people in Canada,” Angus said in a phone interview with CBC News following Trudeau’s announcement.
“It was very moving to see that interaction,” the NDP critic for Indigenous and northern affairs said of the two-hour meeting.
According to Angus, Indigenous youth recounted stories of being denied medical services, of living in overcrowded housing with black mould, of leaving their communities as teenagers to go live in boarding homes.
“They really laid out the substandard inequity that young people are facing and they did it with such dignity,” Angus said.
Angus said today’s announcement is “a good step” but still falls short of the money that should be on the table.
“I’m hopeful but I’m still concerned,” Angus said.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde echoed Angus’ statement in an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.
“It’s always a good first step, but we’re always going to keep pushing for long-term sustainable strategies,” Bellegarde said.
“We need at least 80 mental wellness teams. We’re going to start preparing again for next year’s federal budget. That’s what it’s going to take to close the gap.”