Senator Patterson calls for action, not reports, on suicide prevention

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson calls for more action on suicide prevention and less emphasis on education.

“We cannot begin to heal unless concrete actions are taken,” he said in an interview Monday.

Patterson originally made the call to action in a speech in the Senate on March 31, in response to a motion by Senator Stan Kutcher that called for a review of the Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, a 2016 document that sets out the principles and the federal government’s suicide prevention goals. .

“While I applaud the intent, I have concerns about this motion,” he said in his speech, which he delivered in Inuktitut using Roman spelling, as he don’t even speak the language.

“My constituents in Nunavut, who struggle with suicide and its impact every day, need action rather than more studies.

In an interview, Patterson focused on the fact that programs and councils were run by Inuit, saying they are the ones who are suffering the most from Nunavut’s suicide crisis.

The Tukisigiarvik Center in Iqaluit and the Ilisaqsivik Corporation in Clyde River are good examples of the types of facilities needed in Nunavut, he said.

Both offer programs to help Inuit mental health and connection with their culture, Patterson said, adding that Ilisaqsivik also helps train Inuit to become mental health counsellors.

It’s important that every community in Nunavut has similar centers so Inuit can easily access mental health services instead of having to travel for them, he said.

With the federal budget to be released Thursday, Patterson said he expects to see a good amount of funding for accessible mental health services in Nunavut.

Having served as a Member of Parliament for Iqaluit, Northwest Territories, from 1978 to 1995, before Nunavut became a territory, he says there are career moments he is proud of and some he regrets, in terms of mental health.

Closing regional schools in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet that operated similarly to residential schools while he was education minister are actions Patterson said he was proud to have taken.

However, he said he regretted not discovering there were a few serial sex offenders in the Northwest Territories education system while he was an MP, including Ed Horne.

He added that many of Horne’s victims were traumatized by the incidents that then unfolded in their own lives.

“I regret that this happened on my watch, without my knowledge,” Patterson said.

Outside of funding for mental health programs, he said Pope Francis’ apology last Friday for the role of some Catholics in abuses in the residential school system is an important step forward in addressing the trauma. intergenerational relationship that Inuit face when it comes to mental health. .

Patterson added that the apology, while imperfect, is seen as “a step in the journey and progress.”

Here are resources for people in distress who need someone to talk to:

The Kamatsiaqtut Helpline is unique to Nunavut and offers services in Inuktitut. Telephone: 979-3333 for residents of Iqaluit and 1-800-265-3333 for other Nunavummiut.
The First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Helpline: 1-855-242-3310 or chat online at