Village gets electricity – in Canada

The ceremony to announce the connection of Pikangikum to the Ontario power grid, in Dec. 2019. Photo:

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.

Well, here’s one — from 21 Dec. 2018!: Pikangikum, Ont., 1st remote community connected to provincial power grid. 

Continue reading “Village gets electricity – in Canada”


Senator Lynn Beyak meet Justice David S. Gibson – and learn something

A senator apologist for Indian residential schools and a justice who bases a judgment on the devastating impact of those schools. It’s a good thing only one has decision-making powers.

Report of Canada's TRC.
Report of Canada’s TRC, at the 2-year point of its 5-year mandate.

Two Canadians in powerful positions with totally divergent views about the impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples: thankfully the one with the decision-making power has taken the time to understand the painful history, and legacy, of this atrocious system.

In January, Justice David Gibson of the Ontario Court of Justice wrote an insightful commentary on the history of Pikangikum, a First Nation community in northern Ontario.

(I’ve written about Pikangikum before, including in this post.) Continue reading “Senator Lynn Beyak meet Justice David S. Gibson – and learn something”

New school, and new hope, in Pikangikum

(c) OPP Aboriginal unit via @OPP_Aboriginal.

This is old news by now but it’s great to see that a new school opened in Pikangikum First Nation, in northern Ontario, in October. The last building burned down a decade ago, so classes were being held in portables. Continue reading “New school, and new hope, in Pikangikum”

Dozens of suicide attempts by indigenous youth: what the f!*? is going on in ‘sunny ways’ Canada?

Walking near Attawapiskat high school
People walk near the high school in Attawapiskat. (c)

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.

Continue reading “Dozens of suicide attempts by indigenous youth: what the f!*? is going on in ‘sunny ways’ Canada?”

Healing in Pikangikum stumbles

Little did I know as I was corresponding with those offices that at least three other community members died of suicide in Pikangikum early this year.


I last wrote about Pikangikum in December 2014. Since then I’ve collected information from three government offices about what they are doing to combat the extraordinarily high level of suicide among young people in this indigenous community in northern Ontario. Continue reading “Healing in Pikangikum stumbles”

This is Canada too

WaterAdvisoriesFNCanada_CBC151015Regularly these days a global report is released revealing that one or more Canadian cities has made the world’s list of Top 10 places to live. I admit that I can’t help feeling just a twinge of pride when I hear the latest news.

Then I give my head a shake, because, for instance: Continue reading “This is Canada too”

Pikangikum: What does it take to heal a community?

Coroners_report_title_pageEarlier this year I wrote to the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario asking about any follow-up to a 2011 report on a shocking series of youth suicides in the northern First Nation community of Pikangikum.

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:

Only 1 of 100 recommendations in Coroner’s suicide report followed. Continue reading “Pikangikum: What does it take to heal a community?”

Hockey deaths overshadow First Nations’ tragedy

This week, Canada’s national media has been awash with news about the death of another professional hockey player – the third in 4 months.

Like the others, Wade Belak was an ‘enforcer’, a player put on a team’s roster to physically intimidate opponents and protect his more skilled teammates, often by dropping his gloves and fighting other teams’ enforcers.

Belak killed himself, and his death signals an urgent need to assess the support that is being offered to these players, both during and after their careers.

Five other deaths, including one this week, have received much less attention.

In less than two months, 4 teenage girls and a 26-year-old man have killed themselves in the Pikangikum First Nations reserve in northwestern Ontario, according to an official there.

Pikangikum, an isolated northern community 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, is no stranger to suicide. In 2000, 8 young girls living in the community took their own lives. A 2004 article in the Canadian Journal of Native Studies said Pikangikum had a suicide rate of 470 deaths per 100,000, which is one of the highest in the world, and 36 times the national average, reported the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

“We have no running water. We have no sewer system. We have 2,400 people living in 400 homes,” a Pikangikum official told the Citizen. “And the government is nowhere to be seen.

“Most of the youth don’t have any privacy, even in their own homes. Most of them have to share rooms,” added the official.

Whatever the reasons for this long-running tragedy – and they are bound to be many and complex – it certainly merits the sort of attention that the media has been focusing on the hockey deaths this week.

Read a report released by Ontario’s Chief Coroner on Friday

Listen to CBC radio’s interview with Ontario’s Chief Coroner.

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