Public demonstrations are rare in Nunavut but it looks like more are planned to call for better mental health services.
Tiana Gordon held the first one in Rankin Inlet Thursday.
“We had people honking in support and people coming up and telling us to keep it up and happy we are standing a couple hours,” she said in a telephone interview.
“We were at the busiest 4-way stop sign near the KIA (Kivalliq Inuit Association) building.”
Gordon, 23, said it was a little showing of only two people but they feel they started something big.
“We’ve decided to participate in the Nunavut-wide protest next Friday (June 26),” she said.
“All Nunavut communities are to participate.”
Gordon said the idea was planted on social media during a conversation about recent deaths by suicide.
“We don’t even have a dedicated building or facility to walk in. There’s never a committed worker,” she added.
Statistics show Nunavut has the highest rate of death by suicide in Canada and the second-highest in the world – particularly among adults.
Gordon said people who need counselling or help with addiction issues have to visit their community health centre, which is more focused on medical treatment.
She said mental health workers rotate in and out from southern Canada forcing patients to repeat their stories and need for services.
“There’s a significant lack of support whether that’s infrastructure or funding,” agreed Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (NDP), who was happy to hear about the demonstration in Rankin Inlet.
“There is no access to a (dedicated mental health) building. Sometimes the service is there but not carried out.”
Qaqqaq noted mental health services are part of the “basic human rights” she’s been lobbying the Trudeau government to make available in Nunavut.
“It’s something we talk about so often, to improve quality of life and well being,” she said in a telephone interview
The Nunavut government was unable to comment Friday afternoon following a request from APTN News in the morning.
Spokesman Scott Hitchcox said more time was needed to provide a response.
“…Please note that The Department of Health has processes for media requests. This is a very short timeline. For future requests please allow at least 24 hours notice,” he said in an email.
If you’re Indigenous and experiencing emotional distress, call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line for support at 1-867-979-3333 or toll-free at 1-800-265-3333.