The small Inuit community of Kuujjuarapik is reeling from three suicides within 30 dtys. Two 18-year-olds and one adult, all male, took their lives for reasons known only to them.
Why? This question was raised many times among the Inuit and in the adjacent Cnee village of Whapmagoostui and voices of concerned parents who feared for the safety and well being of their children. Talk was limited to small groups of people, both on the Cree and Inuit communities and fears that inadvertent publicity ms/ spur an encore from an already troubled town. To put matters in perspective, the province of Quebec has the highest rate of young males who take their cwn lives.
Three people skilled in handling social and family problems serve the town of Kuujjuarapik, namely Maggie Fleming, Anne Forgues and a relative newcomer, Matthew Gaudette, who is here temporarily. The latter two are trained in psychology and social services. Two other people work in a very active youth-protection office that serves the highest proportion of youth per capita on the Hudson Bay coast. They believe that the problems that spurred the three suicides come from deep-rooted social deficiencies and may be community wide.
The main focus of social services is now to deal with the positive aspects of these problems and not to dwell or sensationak ize these tragedies through the nosy media methods that often parlay the seedier sides of life. Instead, the use of the media to bring out into the open the questions that arise from these incidents and give food for thought and hope to the grieving communities of Kuujjuarapik and Whapmagoostui.
A forum of community members will consider questions such as hew to bring out possible solutions to issues such as child neglect; parent to children and children to parent communications; analysis of deep rooted generational and cultural1 changes; hew youth can be instru- mental in the change for the better; why parents are not involved to a greater aspect in their children’s lives and future; and the list goes on. But all three agree in getting actions from these meetings mtybe the hardest thing to do; how can one activate a community to rise up and change for the better?
One aspect that perhaps may shed some light into the darkness of these losses is that the role of the native people have changed so much and in such little time. We used to be a nomadic peoples where the male was in charge of furnishing all matters relating to shelter and putting food on the table. These modem days have furnished homes with electricity, running water and the women are now the predominate workforce. Perhaps it is the sense of loss of identity and usefulness that the highest categories of self-life takers are male. The youth have few positive role models and even their parents are too busy to teach traditional skills.
Another factor is that the youth are usually never asked beforehand as to how their possible future ms/ look like and what kind of role could they pity, as they grow older within their community. Present educational institutes prepare their children for a future that is not relevant to their cwn surroundings and may give them a sense of surreal values and high expectations that may be more suitable for a southern environment.
All agree that the youth are crying out for attention to their problems and the ultimate distress signal echoes the last half century of cultural diminishment and social disparities. It is their future that is at stake here, the message must change to one that there is hope for our children and their children. Social services agree that their own role must remain impartial and supportive but it is the members of the community who must take actions, even though they may be only baby steps, at least steps in the right direction.