Across the globe and particularly in Canada, governments have yet to live up to one very specific call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, according to an Inuvik-based grassroots organization.
TRC Call to Action 66 calls upon the federal government “to establish multi-year funding for community-based youth organizations to deliver programs on reconciliation, and establish a national network to share information and best practices,” but as Western Arctic Youth Collective executive director Alyssa Carpenter told the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on April 17 that hasn’t happened yet.
“It’s something we were trying to highlight where our organizations or counselors or collectives, however they’re set up, really need that to do the work that we’re doing,” Carpenter told Inuvik Drum. “So we wanted to share that and support the other like minded people who are doing the same thing.
“We’re highlighting that we have really poor resources, and we need multi-year resources because we know what we’re doing and we’re doing it responsibly from a reporting financial standpoint.
“We need more to keep doing what we’re doing because we’re helping make things happen for young people and connecting them with other youth.”
Carpenter was one of several groups who presented a report to the UNPFII entitled Labour of Love. The report outlines how hundreds of young Indigenous deaths by suicide and other aspects of generational trauma are entirely preventable and urges stakeholders to prioritize the first seven years of a child’s life. It notes a roadmap to implementation of Call to Action 66 was released by the group Indigenous Youth Voices in 2018.
Speaking to the forum virtually from Inuvik, Carpenter explained the Western Arctic Youth Collective has a focus on the Northwest Territories and increasingly also Yukon territory. She noted the group focuses on people aged 18 to 35, largely because that’s where they saw the largest gap in programming and by extension the biggest cracks people could fall through. She noted the Delta has had a huge number of suicides in recent years, with a significant portion of people dying before age 30.
Statistics released in October 2022 by the Northwest Territories’ chief coroner show 2021 to 2022 was a ten-year high in suicide rates — in 21 months 29 people died of suicide. The majority of death by suicides happening to men age 20 to 29. Men age 30 to 39 accounted for the second largest number of death by suicides and women aged 20 to 29 were the third highest. The coroner noted the majority of the 29 deaths recorded to date at the time were in the Beaufort Delta region.
Carpenter told Inuvik Drum there were already groups working hard to provide support for those who need it and help people survive suicidal thoughts, but having to stop and find funding every year limited what those groups could realistically do.
“If we were to evolve into an organization ourselves,” she said.”We need a space to do that type of work, we also have to have staff that the really value helping youth in communities, so we need to have that training and resources to bring them to us so we can do that in person.
“A lot of times peoples say you can do this virtually now, but no. You know the internet connection of connecting to Sachs Harbour or Paulatuk or Ulukhaktok, it’s not the best.
“We need the resources to take care of ourselves as well. We’re talking about the hard discussions — we’re talking about losses to overdose. We’re talking about losses to suicide, we’re talking about thoughts of suicide, we’re talking about addictions and violence and racism, right?
“If we’re already proving what we’re doing is working, make it easier on us.”