In the legislature today, Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger called on the Saskatchewan Party government to provide more mental health supports in the Fond Du Lac Denesuline First Nation.
The assembly was silent as Belanger spoke on recent suicides in Fond Du Lac. He noted that the deaths have shaken the community that is still recovering from a plane crash that occurred in December.
The NDP MLA pleaded for a stronger focus on mental health in northern Saskatchewan to combat the high number of suicides in the region.
“Across the north, there is a suicide crisis taking place,” said Belanger. ” When will this government finally take action and provide meaningful mental health supports that are so vitally needed, so that my colleague from Cumberland and I can stop having so many funerals to go to?”
Improvements to the runway in Fond du Lac were also requested by Belanger. In regards to the runway, Belanger said that members of the Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation had been told by provincial officials to consult with the federal government, but the band members were then told by Ottawa that the matter should be addressed by the Saskatchewan government.
According to Belanger, the leader of the First Nation intends to visit the legislature to speak with the provincial government face to face, noting that the provincial government’s response to the community’s grievances had been unsatisfactory.
“Chief Louis Mercredi is going to come to Regina (and) he is going to ask the questions on mental health supports,” remarked Belanger. “Today all the excuses that they’re giving are just not acceptable.”
In response, Greg Ottenbreit, Minister of Rural and Remote Health, says funds continue to be used for northern mental health supports, but admits more needs to be done.
“A lot of funds have been put specifically into our former northern health regions to make sure that those regions are able to deliver the mental health and addiction supports that they can when they’re needed… We know that there is more to do though,” said Ottenbreit.
The crash in Fond du Lac that killed one person is still under investigation.
(PHOTO – Buckley Belanger. Screenshot of the Legislative Assembly in Regina.)