I don’t want to meet Stephen Harper. Ever.
I don’t wanna bump into him on the street, I don’t want to sit across the table from him in a meeting, and I certainly don’t want to hear empty promises face to face. But what I do want….and maybe I am crazy for thinking this…is a Prime Minister that stands up for all Canadians all the time. I don’t want a Prime Minister with a selective Memory and a media-centred strategy for working with First Nations people. I don’t want a government that only sees one colour of suicide. I want a government that listens to our children when they ask for help, and does what’s right. Every time, not just some times.
Recently he came to Winnipeg for an announcement and was going to be discussing protecting children from cyber bullying.I was really happy he chose our community to make this announcement, because I was hoping that he would be able to help out with this epidemic….this challenge of keeping kids safe, of preventing suicide that is such an issue in our community. This is an issue in Winnipeg, I have personally written about it here, and here and here. This issue of youth suicide is current, it is fresh, it is happening now. It is everywhere in First Nations communities. First Nations young people are 5 to 6 times more likely to commit suicide than their non-Aboriginal Canadian counterparts! In the city of Winnipeg in the inner city, the Point Douglas Census region statistically has the highest rate of suicide/suicide attempts in all of Winnipeg. Recently one of the young leaders known to myself and many indigenous and inner city leaders, committed suicide at only the age of 18….this was less than one month ago. In places like Neskantanga, ON there are whole First Nations that within the last month who have declared STATES OF EMERGENCY due to the alarming rate of suicide. This is an epidemic….but where is his response? Where is the expedited process for these communities? When will these communities have an opportunity to have their voices heard. This does not even touch upon the suicide attempts of which no stats are being tracked but from personal experience I fear is much more widespread than ever expected. We need help, and I thought that we were finally gonna get it.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper recommitted to combat cyber-bullying with an expedited review of the criminal code in Winnipeg Friday. Being in Winnipeg, to him, it seemed appropriate to bring in the families of Amanda Todd and Rhatea Parsons. He reached, literally, to both ends of our country and imported some cases to address this issue of suicide. These young people’s deaths have attracted National attention. So I can see how he would achieve the desired sensationalism and media buzz to bring them in. (I invite you to read his remarks) HOWEVER Why did he look over all of our dead bodies? Why did he look over all of our dead bodies to non-indigenous , media familiar families? I agree have endured horrible losses, and this isn’t intended to be an us vs them battle, but where is his response to Shamattawa? His response to Sean? I am not upset with these families, in fact I am grateful they are raising the attention that is owed to this issue to prevent future scenarios that many are currently living. But if Stephen Harper wants to get tougher on how we talk about bullying, he better get real on the issue of SUICIDE, name that epidemic and contribute to providing tools for young people to address this in supported environments.
These families from the east and west coast have been provided with an opportunity to speak directly our Prime Minister, which is a great opportunity. But what about those other communities, why don’t they get an opportunity to speak to our Prime Minister, or even have the same attention given to them from the main stream media? Because the roots of that issue are too deep. And it can’t be packaged as a one off as a result of bullying amongst peers….our suicide rate s indicative of years of colonialist policy and service delivery that. If he was sincere about this issue he would sit down with Aboriginal Youth and talk suicide who are alive and dealing with this today and maybe he could empower some youth to PREVENT their peers from this awful fate. I challenge Stephen Harper to a meeting with some Indigenous young leaders and answer our questions about suicide. (note – I will not be one of the young people in this group, there are younger, sharper, more able minds who can speak to the effects of this issue than myself – I simply believe that the indigenous youth voice must be heard – I could certainly find a willing group). Let’s see Stephen Harper’s response when he is confronted with a little bit of our daily reality.
I am offended that this Prime Minister would not only ignore the entire epidemic of youth suicide in Indigenous communities, but also offended that he is completely hypocritical by saying he wants to stop internet bullying while engaging in a media spree of internet and TV ads BULLYING one of his political opponents. You wanna stop bullying? Look in the mirror and make a few changes. Use your example and influence to affect sincere change instead of participating in photo opps. Consistency might help. I am committing myself to working with the young people in my community and anyone who is willing to be a part of the solution. I will no longer waste my energy trying to work with people who don’t wanna work with us. Its not about you, its about them.
So Stephen, if you’re reading this, and I hope you some day do, just know this is one citizen who has absolutely zero interest in speaking with you ever. But I will be working my ass off in my community trying to stop this epidemic from the inside, with respect, a positive example and love. And I will give you a hug.