Photo: Idle No More Toronto Facebook page

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Update: According to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Government of Canada’s official twitter page, INAC regional offices in Toronto, Regina, Winnipeg and Gatineau.

The #OccupyINAC group in Winnipeg has released an official statement which you can read here.

In solidarity with the Attawapiskat community during its state of emergency and suicide crisis, Idle No More protesters are now in their second day of occupying Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) offices in Toronto.

The group of nearly 20 activists has committed to staying until substantive measures are taken by the federal government to support Indigenous youth in the northern Ontario community.

“We would like to see the demands of the youth from Attawapiskat met,” Carrie Lester, of the Mohawk Six Nations Grand River and activist at the INAC offices told rabble. “They want to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau and another big one for them is their youth centre. They would like to know that the prime minister is going to make his way up there to meet with them and they would like to see substantive commitment that the infrastructure they’re desiring is going to be built.”

These demands were put forward after Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency as a result of 11 suicide attempts within the community last Saturday. While the current situation is dire, Lester says it’s not the result of anything new.

“It’s about 400 years of history. This is a long, ongoing colonization on our soil,” she said. “That’s what led to today…the suicides of these kids is not recent, it has been going on for decades.”

In fact, across the country, First Nations youth are five or six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youth.

Lester also commented that the recent federal budget and its minimal support for Indigenous youth show that these issues of colonialism are perpetuating today.

“Here’s Trudeau, saying how much he feels for First Nations and he’s got our back and he’s right there with us and yet he’s withholding money from the youth of this country,” she said. “We need some integrity and some honesty from these government officials which we have never had really so far.”

Along with integrity and honesty, Lester says Indigenous communities ultimately need infrastructure support, not just temporary, band-aid solutions.

“Mental health is certainly an issue that needs to be dealt with but not just with a band-aid solution of having counsellors and nurses and $2 million that was allocated from the [Ontario] Ministry of Health,” she said. “That’s going to salaries of, likely, non-Native people taking these professions and going into these reserves without the spirituality behind them of First Nations and without the cultural teachings, further colonizing the people of the land. Not that mental health care isn’t necessary, but it’s a band-aid solution because without the rest of the infrastructure…mental health issues will continue.”

In addition to the occupation of INAC offices in Toronto, as of this afternoon, a group in Winnipeg has also occupied its local INAC office.

A rally is scheduled for this evening at 6:30 p.m. EST outside of the Toronto INAC offices.

To stay up to date on the occupation of INAC offices in solidarity with Attawapiskat, follow #OccupyINAC on social media.


Photo: Idle No More Toronto Facebook page

Alyse Kotyk

Alyse Kotyk

Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen’s University and is excited...