Horrific Suicide Epidemic Devastates Attawapiskat People:

Genocide, Canadian Style

May 2, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


17-year-old Attawapiskat woman tells of her 13-year-old sister's suicide, as well as of her owon previous suicide attempts.
17-year-old Attawapiskat woman tells of her 13-year-old sister's suicide, as well as of her own previous suicide attempts. (Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

For the Attawapiskat First Nation Indians of northern Manitoba, Canada, Saturday night, April 9 was an unimaginable nightmare: 11 of their youth tried to commit suicide on this night alone.

And this was just one day in the suicide epidemic devastating the Attawapiskat and other indigenous peoples. One hundred Attawapiskats—five percent of their population of 2,000—have attempted suicide since last September. The oldest was 71; the youngest 11. In March there was a suicide attempt nearly every day. That same month, the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba declared a state of emergency after six members killed themselves in three months. Of the 1,200 students in their local school, 120 have been placed on suicide watch. Suicide rates among Canada’s 1.4 million indigenous peoples are 10 times higher for young men and 21 times higher for young women than the national average.

Just pause for a moment and think about the massive amounts of human pain, agony, and suffering contained in these statistics. Ask yourself what led so many young people to such despair that they concluded they were better off dead.

“Kill the Indian in the Child”

Each of these suicides is unique, but they all share a common history: genocide.

Under its 140-year-long “Indian Act,” Canada robbed native peoples of their land by forcing them into reserves, robbed them of their resources, even robbed them of their children! Between 1876 and 1996, 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and put in mainly church-run schools whose policy was to “kill the Indian in the child.” More than 6,000 children died and countless thousands were abused. “These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will,” Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission found last year. ["Aboriginal people" refers to the inhabitants of a land before it was colonized.]

Think about that, for a moment: “to kill the Indian in the child.” Think of the psychic toll that must have taken, and still takes, on entire generations.

Genocide to Serve a System

The lands of the Attawapiskat and other First Nations were stolen and their cultures attacked, first to forge Canada as a British colony and then as a foundation for an imperialist Canada independent of Britain.  Canada’s founding and existence is based on ongoing brutality against aboriginal peoples and the violent theft of their lands and resources.

This systematic plunder, abuse, and genocide has changed form, but not stopped. Today the Attawapiskat suffer extreme poverty, over 60 percent unemployment, an abysmal lack of basic services and schools, and acute housing shortages—with 10 to 15 people sometimes forced to live in a single, small run-down house, this in areas where winter temperatures can drop to well below zero.

“This is how First Nations live in the Bantustans of Canada’s north,” one indigenous Canadian writes. “Broke and broken people with little to no opportunities live in cold, run-down homes and suffer from generations of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.”

Meanwhile the South Africa-based De Beers conglomerate extracted $392 million in diamonds in 2013 alone from lands stolen from the Attawapiskat by a Canadian government-imposed treaty in 1930.

This horrific genocide formed part of what Karl Marx called the “rosy dawn” of the capitalist system; and it will be the communist revolution against that system which will draw forward and lead those whom this system has tried to crush to be part of the overthrow of that system—a revolution which will right those historic wrongs and overcome those historic scars, as part of the revolutionary struggle to transform the whole world and emancipate humanity.


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