The province now has suicide prevention legislation.
On Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette’s third attempt, he was successful Friday, as the government supported the Bill unopposed and it was assented by LT. Gov. Russ Mirasty.
This is a major victory for Vermette who for years has advocated for such a strategy.
He would bring families impacted by suicide to the Legislature to share their stories, in hope for change.
“I think about Kimberly Beatty, just amazing. She does a walk in awareness of suicide each year. I think about Sally Ratt, about her loss and hurt her daughter at such a young age,” said Vermette. “It’s a victory for them.”
134 people died by suicide in 2020, the fewest since 2012.
54 of those individuals were of First Nations and Métis ancestry. Suicide is also the leading cause of death in Northern Saskatchewan.
Vermette credited Tristen Durocher, who walked more than 600 kilometers from Air Ronge to Regina last summer in support of suicide prevention legislation. Durocher completed a 44-day hunger strike on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly.
“I can’t stop thinking of all the families over the last few years who have approached me to share their story of a child, a parent or loved one they’ve lost,” explained Vermette. “We told them we wouldn’t give up and we would keep pushing this government to do more, to be better, and to do the right thing. It was a long road to get here but really it’s those families that I’m thinking of right now.”
The province twice voted against Vermette’s legislation, only to introduce its own suicide prevention plan “Pillars for Life” approximately one year ago.
That plan was widely criticized for not going far enough in tracking the progress of prevention measures.
Yet during the election campaign in October, the government heard from voters how important stronger suicide prevention measures were needed.
“I think this is where one of the benefits of an election comes into play. You hear from people directly on the doorsteps over the phones, and on Main Street. And what we heard last fall is that the bill brought forward by the member opposite was a very important one to the people of this province,” said Mental Health and Addictions Minister Everett Hindley.
“We heard that passing this legislation would be a meaningful step in supporting suicide prevention efforts across Saskatchewan. It’s a dynamic issue, one that is extremely complex. It can affect anyone, no matter your age, gender, race, where you live, or your stature in life. We’re prepared to support this bill, and state these goals and legislation to help us bring together and focus our collective efforts on those who need help. Suicide prevention is a health and safety priority for this government.”
This legislation will build on the “Pillars for Life” strategy, as it commits the province to undertake broad public and community consultation within six-months. The provincial government in two years will begin to produce annual reports on the progress of suicide prevention in Saskatchewan.