Monday, September 22, 2014
Text Size

Apartheid system’ of programs blamed for native suicide pact


VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

A “suicide pact” involving 30 youths arose in Vancouver’s inner city largely because native children are segregated by racially selective social programs, aboriginal support workers say.

Although the native-only programs are designed to be culturally sensitive, they have ended up creating “social service ghettos,” said Scott Clark, who works for an organization that supports native families in the urban core. Mr. Clark said news of the suicide pact first emerged on Facebook in September, triggering intervention by a special team involving police and government social workers, who swooped in to disrupt the group’s plans.

“A number of front-line workers heard the rumblings … and then the team came together and identified who those youth were and then brought 24 of them in for their own protection,” he said.

Mr. Clark said all of the children brought in were natives living in the Grandview Woodlands area, but he didn’t know any details about the others, or about how and when the pact was meant to have been concluded.

He said there have been five attempted suicides among youth since September in that community, but he didn’t know whether any of them had been members of the pact.

He also said that 12- and 13-year-old native children have been binge drinking in Grandview Woodlands, which abuts the Downtown Eastside, and several have been hospitalized because of alcohol overdoses.

Mr. Clark, executive director of the Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement Society, said it is clear there is a crisis involving native children in the community and in other neighbourhoods. He blames the problem on social-service agencies that aren’t co-ordinating efforts, and on government services that isolate children, by funnelling them into native-only programs.

“The government has instituted what is effectively an apartheid system,” Mr. Clark said. “Perhaps with good intentions, B.C. government ministries have funded parallel aboriginal systems and organizations for education, child and family services. … These types of programs have long been advocated to reflect cultural relevance for B.C.’s aboriginal peoples. However, what has evolved are systems where aboriginal people are pressured and often mandated to use aboriginal designated programs and organizations.”

Ernie Crey, an adviser to the Sto:lo Tribal Council, agreed. “The fault lines in this unworkable and collapsing model of community services has found expression in last summer’s suicide pact and many troubling incidents involving youth that have followed thereafter,” he said.

Ambrose Williams, an aboriginal youth leader with Mr. Clark’s organization, said he often hears from young people that they don’t like being pushed into programs that are for natives only. “We don’t like being separated into aboriginal organizations,” he said.

In a letter to Mr. Clark last week, Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said she has asked staff from her ministry and the Vancouver Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society to review the September response to the suicide pact.

“We can learn valuable lessons in terms of early responses, including collaborative opportunities, that may have been missed,” she said, while praising government, health and police authorities for their prompt action.

B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, was not available for comment Tuesday. But earlier this month she released a report on youth at risk of suicide, which identified a lack of stable living arrangements, domestic violence, mental-health issues, substance abuse and romantic conflict as common factors in 89 youth suicide and self-harm incidents. Ms. Turpel-Lafond also noted “a significant over-representation of aboriginal children and youth,” with 58 per cent of the incidents involving natives.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Education & Training

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...


obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit


Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON


Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Tue Sep 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:15PM
FNHMA National Conference 2014
Sun Oct 05 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
INIHKD & Manitoba NEAHR Conference 2014


September 2014
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday


Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins