Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau admitted his government needs to do more to combat the high number of youth suicides in Canada but could offer no concrete plans on what the Liberals would do if re-elected this fall.
Instead Trudeau highlighted what the party has done over the past four years.
“[We’ve] made investments in mental health service workers, in a hotline to help out Indigenous communities, investments in education and in new schools and health centres and investments in Indigenous languages and culture,” Trudeau told reporters while in Winnipeg Thursday afternoon.
Earlier this week child advocates from across Canada released a new paper on youth suicides.
They also called on the federal government to implement a national suicide prevention strategy.
Trudeau said it’s not just about creating a strategy it’s about making investments in Indigenous communities.
“Everyday longer we take means more kids are struggling for longer,” he said. “But we have to get this right and we have to do it in the full spirit of respect and partnership.
“That has been what our government has been focused on and will continue to be focused on.”
First Nation people are dying at much earlier than non-Indigenous people in Manitoba, according to a new study released this week by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.
Researchers say early death rates are three times higher for First Nation people.
The report also determined, “approximately 23 per cent of First Nations living on-reserve identified suicide as a community challenge.”
In August, God’s Lake First Nation activated a state of emergency because of a suicide crisis. Four young people died by suicide over the summer and another 22 attempted to take their own lives.
Trudeau said there is still a long way to go, “what took generations and indeed centuries to break is going to take time to fix.”
Brielle Beardy-Linklater is a two-spirit advocate in Manitoba.
She wasn’t impressed with what Trudeau told reporters Thursday.
“What he needs to be doing is listening when people are talking. Not being defensive by reinstating the same thing over and over, which is being recited because it’s all public relations. It’s all a game,” said Beardy-Linklater.
She says youth need more resources and they need them now.
“It’s a big problem and it’s growing. It’s an epidemic and we’re being ignored,” said Beardy-Linklater.
“Our people are not being heard so this is the time to do it.”
What are the other federal parties saying?
APTN reached out to each major party and asked if they would implement a national suicide prevention strategy if elected.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said on Tuesday he will support the development of a national suicide crisis if elected prime minister.
“Especially when it relates to Indigenous Canadians, there’s a unique responsibility for the federal government to do that,” Scheer said. “We had a private members bill in our party for a national suicide prevention strategy. That’s something I certainly supported. And will commit to doing more as prime minister to tackle that very issue.
The New Democratic Party did not provide a response from party leader Jagmeet Singh.
They did refer to a motion Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus tabled earlier this year – but the statement from the party is vague on a strategy.
“Youth need to be an important part of a national suicide prevention action plan. Our motion called for an analysis of priority areas and needs, followed by implementation and regular reports to Parliament on implementation,” the statement said.
The People’s Party of Canada said they would not.
“Health care and social services, including the issue of youth suicide, is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Provincial governments already have such prevention strategies. The People’s Party has promised to respect the Constitution and not intervene in these areas. We therefore do not commit to implementing a national strategy if we form government,” Martin Masse, a PPC spokesperson, wrote by email.
The Green Party did not respond.