Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services :: Appendix 5: Pikangikum's Response

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Office of the Chief Coroner

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The Office of the Chief Coroner’s Death Review of the Youth Suicides at the Pikangikum First Nation

2006 – 2008



Appendix 5: Pikangikum’s Response to the OCC’s Death Review of Youth Suicides (The “Review”)

We, the Council of Pikangikum, entirely acknowledge and appreciate the considerable time and thought of those that have prepared and drafted the 99 recommendations contained within the Review. We also respect and appreciate that contributors to this Review have acquired considerable knowledge and experience in their professional lives and are genuine in wanting to address these issues, not merely respecting Pikangikum but also with respect to other communities in Ontario and throughout Canada.

It should be pointed out that the recommendations are entirely silent regarding the significant role that our Elders play in any decision-making process in Pikangikum. Despite this glaring oversight, we at Pikangikum fully recognize that our Elders are of critical importance to the success of each and every process and strategy that seeks to address the issues inherent in this Review. As such, Chief and Council are ensuring that on-going engagement and consultation with our Elders occurs with respect to the recommendations and the First Nation’s suggested process for their implementation.

We convened meetings respecting the Review with Elders, Youth, Health Authority, Education Authority, and others including representatives of the OPP and staff at our school. These meetings were helpful in affirming immediate needs and priorities of the Pikangikum First Nation.

We note that several of the recommendations are not directed to Pikangikum specifically, but involve jurisdictional issues and policy recommendations that are inter-provincial. These are large issues that will be debated in the future amongst our fellow first Nations and by policy makers within the Government of Canada and Ontario. We have certain views respecting those “policy” recommendations. However we choose not to comment on them at this time as we do not want to deviate from what we believe is realistically obtainable from this important Review.

We have taken the time to consult with our people in order to identify the priorities that they see on the ground amongst the 99 recommendations. In our view, naming those priorities that appear in the recommendations avoids the risk that they will be lost in this sea of recommendations. We know from experience that if the recommendations are considered in their totality, this will happen over a very extended period of time, and will ultimately result in gridlock and a catatonic “do nothing because it’s too overwhelming.” We do not want these priorities or recommendations that speak to them to be “shelved.” This would not be helpful for our youth today nor would it honour those who are the subject of the Review.

As one of our priorities set out below, we propose a process going-forward to address the recommendations as a whole. To be clear, we support any, and all, recommendations that will contribute to addressing issues that may have contributed to the taking of a life of any of our youth. But we assert that it is essential that this Review becomes a purposeful instrument to implement what Pikangikum First Nation considers to be realistic and achievable key priorities within a short time-line.

It is for all of the above reasons that we wish to share the following response to this Review. We wish to emphasize that the following priority recommendations are not stated in any order of priority. Each is an essential priority.

Recommendations by Pikangikum Council that Require Immediate Implementation:

  1. New Pikangikum School (Referencing Recommendation #71)

Our school burned to the ground in 2007. Prior to that, it had been “condemned” by health, engineering and environmental officials for several years. INAC had been promising to replace the school since its demise, but has yet to fulfill that promise.

When the school burned down, Council was informed by the INAC Minister and INAC’s Regional Director General that by agreeing to have a temporary school constructed, such a decision would not delay or impact INAC’s commitment to provide our children with a new school. We were told that the new school would be constructed by 2010. This has not come to pass, nor is there a firm commitment from INAC as to when the new school is to be built.

The reality of the temporary school as determined by our parents, principal, vice principal, teachers and students is generally bad construction and design resulting in:

• Constant leaking, mould and moisture issues;

• Poor or no insulation leading to drafts, cold floors, dangerous ice-damming on roofs, and freezing pipes;

• Soil erosion and shifted buildings leading to animals and children crawling into the spaces under the buildings, and increased fire hazards due to lack of clear exits;

• No common areas or gathering spaces;

• No library;

• No tech or trade facilities;

• No gym;

• No bathroom facilities in any of the portable classrooms;

• No lockers;

• No outdoor recreational equipment or playground facilities;

• No proper computer rooms;

• No science facilities;

• No special education and support space or facilities;

• No access for wheelchairs and disabled students;

• No space for full-day kindergarten program despite a rapidly growing population;

• Students and parents assert that the kids do not look forward to attending a “non school,” and

• Extreme over-crowding in classrooms leading to children having to sit in hallways during class (i.e. teachers had to accommodate 55 children in the 2010-2011 grade eight class).

Action Required to Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting, to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum. Invited to attend:

• Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs; and

• Ontario Assistant Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

The purpose of this meeting would be to obtain a commitment from the Minister of Indian Affairs that a new school, with a capacity of no fewer than 1,000 students, be constructed at Pikangikum within 12 months.

  1. Construction of 50 new homes, and water and sewer hook-up to all homes (Referencing Recommendations 92 and 94)

Several homes in Pikangikum have as many as 18 people residing in them, and many have major structural deficiencies and moisture problems. Most of our homes have no access to running water or sewer facilities which negatively impacts on residents’ ability to cook, clean, bathe and nourish themselves and their families in a healthy environment. It is well known that for our children and our Elders these conditions bring dire consequences.

We require a “special” injection of funds from Canada, and possibly Ontario, to construct 50 homes. This would not address our housing needs entirely but would ease some of the pressure resulting from the severe overcrowding and tragic consequences that invariably arise from such conditions.

Access to clean potable water is essential to ensure broad health and well-being in our community. The need for safe disposal and treatment of sewage has been at a critical stage for years in our community, and threatens to continue as a serious health hazard for our growing population. The health implications arising from a lack of access to clean water, and safe sewage management facilities are numerous and have been well-documented both inside and outside our community. The impacts are on-going in our community and cannot be understated. Our community requires all homes, new and old, be connected to water and sewer facilities. This means that a new water and sewer treatment plant that can service our homes, and the growing needs of our community, is absolutely necessary to safeguard the health of our people.

All homes, new and existing, must be connected to water and sewer.

Action Required to Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting, to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum. Invited to attend:

• Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Deputy Minister responsible for CMHC;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs; and

• Ontario Minister of Housing.

  1. Gridline Connectivity (Referencing Recommendation #90)

Chief and Council have been assured that the Gridline project approval and construction and a Treasury Board Submission is imminent. This needs to be confirmed and finalized.

Action Required to Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum. Invited to attend:

• Deputy Minister of Indians Affair

• Deputy Minister responsible for Treasury Board

The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that the gridline connectivity project proceeds forthwith, as promised.

  1. Whitefeather Forest Initiative: Sustainable employment and economic opportunity (Referencing Recommendation # 96)

It is our respectful belief that any and all of the recommendations contained in this Report will provide few long-term solutions to improve the quality of life of our youth, unless there is a sustainable economy which will offer sustainable employment and career opportunities for our community. That is why our Whitefeather Forest Initiative should and must be financially supported at this critical juncture in its development.

Our Whitefeather Forest Management Corp. is Pikangikum-owned, and has been guided by the vision of our Elders. Please take the time to look at our Whitefeather website, www.whitefeatherforest.com, to see how far we have come since Elders commenced the process, working in close cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to meet the terms and conditions for acquiring the Sustainable Forest License (SFL).

It is of critical importance for all “stakeholders” involved in this Review to fully understand and appreciate the following: once the Forest Management Plan (FMP) is completed, projected to be in the Spring of 2012, Pikangikum will have management control over approximately 1.3 million hectares of crown lands (traditional ancestral lands of the people of Pikangikum known as the Whitefeather Forest), and will have approval to commence commercial forestry operations. It is estimated that approximately 350 jobs, on a sustainable, permanent basis, will be generated, both in the woodlands operations and in the value-added opportunities that have been planned to date.

The Whitefeather Forest represents the hope and future for our youth and for future generations. If the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, and their respective agencies are to take the recommendations advanced in the Review seriously, there must be a concerted and coordinated commitment to provide financial resources to enable the work to be completed for securing and sustaining the SFL. This means that there must be support for the purchase of LKGH, the interim opportunity that would employ our youth who are currently undergoing training for the numerous and varied jobs that will need to be filled.

Action Required To Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting, to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum. Invited to attend:

• Whitefeather Forest Management Corp.;

• Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Deputy Minister responsible for FEDNOR;

• Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs; and

• Ontario Minister of Natural Resources.

The purpose of this meeting is to acquire a commitment for $4.5 million to secure the wood supply, the balance required to purchase LKGH; and the finalization of the requirements to secure the SFL.

  1. Healing/Treatment Centre (Referencing Recommendation #52)

Stormer Lake Resort is for sale. It is located within the traditional ancestral lands of Pikangikum and is in relative proximity to the Pikangikum community.

Funds should be identified to enable Pikangikum to purchase these lands and buildings for a Treatment Centre to address alcohol and substance abuse within our community (i.e. gas sniffing).

There are several treatment models that could be adapted specifically for Pikangikum’s requirements. This must be studied carefully prior to operation and delivery of the services. However, the starting point is to secure the property and buildings.

Action Required to Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting, to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum. Invited to attend:

• Federal Deputy Minister of Health Canada;

• Federal Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs; and

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Health.

The purpose is to secure the funds to purchase the Stormer Lake property (approximately $1.5 million and to identify annualized operation and maintenance costs.

  1. Additional Reserve Lands for Pikangikum (Referencing Recommendation #98)

The Pikangikum population presently exceeds 2,500, with the demographics projecting the on-reserve population being approximately 5,000 within a generation. There is presently no land on-reserve for the establishment of a new housing subdivision as all available land is not suitable for construction.

There is an immediate requirement for an expansion of the reserve.

There has been a long outstanding commitment by Canada to approve an additional 5 square miles for Pikangikum. Ontario has previously agreed to sell to Canada Crown lands for this purpose, which has not occurred.

Action Required To Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting, to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum. Invited to attend:

• Canada Deputy Minister responsible for Lands & Trusts;

• Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of INAC;

• Ontario Minister of Natural Resources;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs;

• Ontario Deputy Minister Responsible for Land Acquisition and Disposition.

The purpose is to secure the commitment from Canada for an addition to the reserve of a minimum of 5 square miles, the specific lands to be identified by Pikangikum; and for Ontario to agree to transfer those parcels of Crown lands to Canada for this purpose.

  1. Mandate of Social Health Education Elders (SHEE) Committee to Implement the Balance of Recommendations (Referencing Recommendations 1 to 99)

The SHEE Committee was established in March of 2010, to implement and coordinate certain programs and activities in Pikangikum and for the Pikangikum Health Authority to assume responsibility for implementation in Pikangikum.

Council believes that the SHEE Committee, under the direction of the Pikangikum Health Authority, is best positioned to advance strategies and work on securing the funding and supports required to implement the numerous recommendations contained within the Review. This includes those recommendations that fall within the 6 main themes in the report: health care (31 recommendations), suicide prevention (28 recommendations), education (15 recommendations), policing (2 recommendations), child welfare (11 recommendations), and social determinants of health (12 recommendations). Chief and Council are prepared to continue to support the SHEE Committee in its work throughout the next year. At that time, Chief and Council will review the Committee’s progress to date, and will consider any necessary changes to its mandate and composition that may be required.

Action Required to Implement

The Coroner and/or Deputy Chief Coroner convene a meeting, to be co-chaired with the Chief of Pikangikum and Pikangikum Health Authority. Invited to attend:

• Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Federal Minister of Health Canada;

• Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Health; and

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Child and Youth Services.

It is recommended that the SHEE Committee, working in conjunction with the Pikangikum Health Authority, address the recommendations and prepare quarterly reports to Pikangikum Chief and Council on progress being made respecting implementation of the Review’s recommendations. Subject to satisfactory progress being made within the first 12 months of its mandate, the Council of Pikangikum shall determine whether the SHEE Committee shall continue or whether appropriate amendments shall be made to its mandate and Terms of Reference.

  1. Semi Annual Meeting of Coroner, Pikangikum, Canada and Ontario

Council have identified the need to ensure that officials from the governments of Canada and Ontario remain fully engaged in the implementation of the recommendations of the Coroner’s Review.

Action Required to Implement

To ensure that there is no “passing the buck,” miscommunications, or misunderstandings, it is recommended that a meeting be convened, to be chaired jointly by the Chief of Pikangikum and Chief Coroner for Ontario and/or Deputy Chief Coroner that would include the following:

• Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs;

• Parliamentary Secretary to INAC Minister;

• Minister of Health Canada;

• Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs;

• Ontario Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs; and

• Ontario Minister of Child and Youth Services.

A semi annual meeting of a minimum of an entire day shall ensure that there is a commitment to follow through to advance the recommendations.

Picture of the signatures of the Pikangikum Band Council