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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Justin Trudeau is failing as minister of youth: Mochama

Young people, specifically and especially Indigenous young people, are left with a minister who, instead of advocating for them, undermines their futures.

Eight-year-old Shakira Koostachin plays on a swing in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont., on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press via AP

Eight-year-old Shakira Koostachin plays on a swing in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont., on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

There has been a lot of talk about which ministers have most failed their portfolio.

Presently, the most calamitous minister is the minister of youth. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds this job.

For far too long, the federal government has continued to defend against the Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling that it must meet the requirements of Jordan’s Principle which requires the government to provide equitable funding and access for Indigenous children’s health and well-being. The Tribunal has now issued three non-compliance rulings against the government. The most recent one was this May.

Despite this, the Trudeau government has gone back to court. Since the January 2016 ruling, they have spent $707,000 on court fees.

Earlier this year, the parliamentary budget office reported that gap between what provinces provide for children’s education and what the department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provides for Indigenous children would be between 335 and 665 million dollars.

Young people, specifically and especially Indigenous young people, are left with a minister who, instead of advocating for them, undermines their futures.

Meanwhile, the crisis for Indigenous youth continues and deepens.

Over a year after Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency after a weekend in which there were 11 attempts at suicide, many by young people, there is still a shortage of mental health services.

Wapekeka First Nation is reeling from a suicide pact that led to the deaths of three 12-year-old girls. Four more girls had to flown out on an emergency basis; 26 more young people are considered at-risk. As it turns out, the Nation had asked Ottawa for emergency funding to deal with what they saw as a looming mental health crisis. That request was denied.

In Nishnawbe Aski First Nation (which includes Wapekeka First Nation and Attawapiskat First Nation) there have been 18 deaths by suicide since the beginning of the year. Nine of which were by young people between 10 and 15 who ended their own lives.

Four of them occurred in the last week alone.

Young people are dying at an alarming rate. A minister for youth who also happens to be the prime minister cannot continue to obfuscate around legal obligations.

Curiously, there is no mandate letter that describes the minister of youth’s responsibilities. For his department, such as it is, there is no accountability.

Nonetheless, there is a public record of his failures. What the numbers don’t reveal is the devastation that suicide wreaks on families and on communities; the rich, vibrant lives these young people once had; or the ongoing challenge to save lives in the aftermath. What the numbers do reveal is a lack of concern for the lives of Indigenous youth; it is not a report card to be proud of.

Were he not the prime minister, the minister for youth would be fired.

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