Natan Obed made one campaign promise when he was elected president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in September 2015: Take action on suicide prevention.
A native of Nain, in the Nunatsiavut region of Newfoundland and Labrador, Obed is the political leader of Canada’s Inuit. The ITK, which represents the 60,000 Inuit living in four regions of Arctic Canada, unveiled its National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy Wednesday in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, in northern Quebec.
Inuit have been working on suicide prevention for a long time, but we haven’t had a plan that unified all Inuit regions to work on the issue in a similar way. And we haven’t had an Inuit-led narrative about why suicides happen in our communities the way that it does and what we need to do to prevent it.
This government has talked quite a bit about indigenous youth suicide. There was even a special debate in the House of Commons in the spring. There have been many different people who have weighed in on why suicide exists or what needs to be done. But those are not our voices. We hope this will be cited as the definitive narrative as to why suicide happens in Inuit communities and also that it will serve as a roadmap for anyone else who would like to help on these issues. It sets out very clear objectives and targets about what we would like to do and how we would like to work on it.