APTN National News
A Quebec coroner’s report on five suicides in two Innu communities in the province said a system similar to apartheid is at the root of the problems that led to the people’s deaths.
The 50-page report released Saturday by Bernard Lefrancois examined the deaths of three women and one man in Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and a woman from Kawawachikamach – both communities are on Quebec’s North Shore.
Lefrancois said the problems in these communities are largely rooted in the reserve system.
“I believe and see evidence that the great fundamental problem lies with the ‘apartheid’ system into which Aboriginals have been thrust for 150 years or more,” Lefrançois wrote in his report. “It is time to put an end to this apartheid system, and for all of the authorities concerned to confront that challenge.”
Lefrancois’ report said the five people had different stories but were all Indigenous, and all suffered individually against a backdrop of collective unhappiness.
The victims, Charles Gregory Junior Vollant, 24, Marie-Marthe Grégoire, 46, Alicia Grace Sandy, 21, Celine Michael Rock, 30, and Nadeige Guanish, 18, all took their lives between February and October of 2015.
Lefrancois wrote, “this raises the question of the living conditions in these communities and the lack of means to overcome the difficulties generally associated with suicide, all noted in relation to one or the other of the five deaths.”
The report said the five victims — four Innu and one Naskapi — all exhibited at least one of the factors associated with suicide including:
- Presence of mental disorders;
- Abuse and dependence on alcohol and drugs or other addictions;
- Previous ideation or attempted suicide;
- Conjugal difficulties or breakdown of the family;
- Exposure to the suicide of a relative;
- Violent, aggressive or impulsive behavior;
- Economic difficulties, loss of employment;
- Problems with justice;
- Abuse and neglect, dysfunctional family;
- Social problems, rejection, intimidation.
Lefrancois’ report calls for improving the living conditions in Aboriginal communities, which have a suicide rate that is double that of the general population, and changing the way solutions are found.
“Despite all the money and efforts of the various levels of government over the past few decades, despite the treaties and agreements signed and the many discussions and negotiations, little is changing. To expect an improvement, you have to address the problems and consider solutions differently, wrote Lefrancois.
“Aboriginal people must be able to define themselves, strengthen their identity to escape racism and to maintain their culture while projecting into the 21 st century.”
— with files from the Canadian Press