Petition to get suicide crisis declared in Arctic Quebec breaks 50,000 signatures

Mary Simon launched the online petition after her niece Natalie May died by suicide last year. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Long-time Inuit advocate Mary Simon has started a campaign to get the number of deaths by suicide in Nunavik recognized as a crisis by Canada and Quebec.

In 2018, more than 15 people died by suicide in the region of Nunavik in Northern Quebec, which has a population of around 13,000 — 11 of those were in the village of Puvirnituq.

Simon was moved to start the campaign at the end of last year, after attending the funeral of her 22-year-old niece Natalie May, who was among the suicides in Kuujjuaq.

She started an online petition with her brother Bob May to have the premier of Quebec and the prime minister of Canada officially recognize the crisis and to appoint a special representative to implement and monitor a mental health treatment program in Nunavik.

Since she posted it on Facebook and Twitter, the petition has garnered 51,500 signatures, nearly reaching its goal of 55,000.

“We thought we needed to get more support from not just Nunavik, but from the public, so that we could illustrate there was substantive support from outside of Nunavik to support the efforts to eliminate suicide,” Simon said.

And with nearly four times the population of the region having signed the petition, Simon says she’s ready to start the next phase of the campaign.

Planning meetings with new cabinet ministers

In February she hopes to set up meetings with relevant cabinet ministers to push for the resources Nunavik needs.

“The federal … cabinet has decided to shuffle, so I think there’s going to be a lot of time [taken to] educate … certain ministers that have been appointed to our areas,” Simon said.

Simon says the government is aware of the issue, but the resources in Nunavik are “insufficient.”

“We don’t have diagnostic services. We don’t have a place where people can go when they need regular counselling,” she said.

Natalie May loved to be out on the land and was friendly with everyone, according to her aunt Mary Simon. (Submitted by Natalie May’s family)

While there is some support offered at the hospital in Kuujjuaq, Simon says she wants a focus on the smaller villages as well.

Simon said her niece had stayed with her in Ottawa for a while and had access to regular counselling, but the resources weren’t there for May once she returned home to Kuujjuaq.

“We’re not attacking anybody. We’re just trying to inform and demonstrate to the federal government and the provincial government that this is an issue that they need to take a closer look at,” Simon said.

With files from Eva Michael

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Death in the Arctic – A community grieves, a father fights for change, Eye on the Arctic special report

Finland: Canada’s Inuit hope Finland carries Indigenous suicide prevention torch further, Radio Canada International

Russia: Why high suicide rates in Arctic Russia?, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Sweden: Gender stereotypes behind high suicide rate, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s suicide rates jump 13 percent, report shows, Alaska Public Media

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2 thoughts on “Petition to get suicide crisis declared in Arctic Quebec breaks 50,000 signatures

  • Monday, January 21, 2019 at 12:34

    Please join my signature to the on-line petition.

  • Monday, January 21, 2019 at 22:25

    Way to go all Inuuat. And Mary, who I love of course.

    Bob Groves, snowed in in Goose Bay.

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