There’s a place in the wilderness of the northern lowlands of Ontario, a paradise dotted by black spruce and poplar, tamarack and ash, the earth woven with rivers and pocked by muskeg. It’s true bush, about 220 kilometers north of Cochrane, Ontario, and about 90 kilometers south of Moosonee and its northern reserve cousin, Moose Factory.
In recent years, these communities of James Bay, and others very similar to them right across Canada’s north, have been devastated by waves of young people taking their own lives. There are the theories: brutal socio-economic conditions, psycho-biological tendencies, the post-traumatic stress of a culture’s destruction. Ultimately, though, no one is quite sure why the rate is often 100 times higher than the Canadian average.
Experts have called these places the suicide capitals of the world. All we know is that something desperately needs to be done.
So we’re doing something.
We’re working hard to change despair into self-reliance, to change that frightening feeling of being lost into always knowing how to find home, to change the belief that there isn’t much of a future into seeing that the world is your oyster, or should we say, your netted sturgeon, your beaded moccasin, your moose tenderloin, your sweat lodge, your eagle feather, your round dance in the wilderness, surrounded by your friends.