Canada has the best quality of life in the world, a survey has announced. But what if you live there and have been unable to drink the water coming out of your tap for 25 years without first boiling it? Or if you’re preparing to leave your home on short notice while community leaders consider an evacuation because mould growing in houses is causing skin rashes and respiratory ailments in a rising number of residents? There is reportedly a list of 100 children waiting to see a doctor.
You live in Canada. You:
Have been unable to drink the water coming out of your tap without first boiling it, for 25 years in the case of one community (1);
Are preparing to leave your home on short notice as community leaders consider an evacuation because mould growing in houses is causing skin rashes and respiratory ailments in rising numbers of residents. There is reportedly a list of 100 children waiting to see a doctor (2);
Have for decades complained about deformed fish being caught in nearby rivers and lakes after a paper mill routinely dumped mercury in the waters in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, kids whose mothers ate fish from those waters are four times more likely to have learning disabilities (3);
Hope that your community – including your teenage daughter – will not be the next one caught up in a wave of youth suicide. For indigenous people up to the age of 44, suicide is the leading cause of death (4).
These days I live in Nepal, where every once in a while a celebratory report appears in the news that a remote village has just been connected to the energy grid or road system. But it’s fairly rare to see such a headline in the media about Canada.
The Canada brand has been trending everywhere since the election of a Liberal government led by photogenic Justin Trudeau on Oct 19, 2015. This resurgence has featured Trudeau’s ‘bromance’ with US President Barack Obama and the prime minister’s declaration to the Paris climate summit in November that, “Canada is back” to assume its historical role as a nation that punches above its weight in engaging in global issues.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Office had followed up, and some weeks later received from them a copy of that document. My surprise turned to shock: according to the fact-based table that I received, only 1 of the report’s 100 recommendations had been implemented as made.
That’s when my journalist’s instincts kicked in and I began looking for a way to write a post around a headline that would go something like:
September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’ve written previously about suicide in an aboriginal community in Canada, but of course suicide is not limited to aboriginal people. Here’s a sensitive yet powerful article in today’s Montreal Gazette:
I was just a kid when my best friend’s dad took his own life, upstairs, alone in his bed. I barely knew him. Yet, his death profoundly affected my life. Thirty years on, the family can talk about it, but not publicly in a way that would identify them. It’s still too hard. So we’ll call my friend Tom.