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Activists occupy Toronto's Indigenous and Northern Affairs office

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Photo: David Coombs

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With the worsening mental health crisis in the Attawapiskat community -- though I want to emphasize that this issue is not of Attawapiskat First Nation alone -- Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices (INAC) across the country are being occupied by concerned First Nations, Metis, Inuit and their settler allies.

We are all related. This stands true not only when it comes to relationships between humans, but also the relationship between us and the land, us and Mother Earth and us with our community, to just name a few.

And they each contribute to one another, as our worsening relationship to the land feeds into the mental health crisis as it impedes our ability to heal ourselves and one another.

Land is ceremony, so a disconnect there also has a worsening affect on mental health.

The list goes on and on, which is why although Canadians are now already familiar with the name Attawapiskat from when their former chief Theresa Spence went on a fast during Idle No More, the negative issues affecting this isolated reserve are by no means isolated.

#ItTakesANation is extremely important when it comes to finding solutions as to why so many Indigenous youth are attempting to commit suicide.

It took a nation -- i.e., Canada -- to cause the underlying problems that Indigenous children and youth face which strips them of their self-esteem and sense of place, and it will take a nation to resolve. But Canadians must show the desire to resolve these issues.

Not empty promises, such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to visit directly with the youth and community leaders and healers of Attawapiskat, but real concrete measures that can show this troubled community they matter.

Trudeau is the Minister of Youth, as deserves the critical hashtag, #Trudontshow

Just as we need to show Indigenous women and girls that they matter, and that we care if they disappear and end up murdered.  

No one should blame the Indigenous community, or any Canadian, for their skepticism.

An article published by the CBC quotes NDP MPP Gilles Bisson:

"Three years ago, when grand chief then Stan Loutit declared a state of emergency in the similar type of situation, the province responded by giving Payukotayno [children's mental health services] about $1.5 million to be able to provide services to be able to deal with counselling, etc., so that we can help people," he said.

"And once the cameras rolled away, about two years later, the government withdrew the funding and then some. So I'm not surprised we are where we are."

In it is the spirit of wanting to help one another that these occupations are taking place in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto.

In Toronto, the solidarity shown by the Black Lives Matter community has been essential, and so welcomed.

A solidarity rally was held yesterday in Toronto at 25 St. Clair East, where demonstrators are occupying the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) office.

You can view a photo essay of yesterday's rally in front of the INAC office by David Coombs here.

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