Idle No More Toronto Stages Protest in Response to Attawapiskat State of Emergency
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Idle No More Toronto Stages Protest in Response to Attawapiskat State of Emergency

The group is demanding improved access to resources for young people.

They lie, their bodies splayed across the tiled floor of the cramped office, each one representing the death by suicide of a young person in Attawapiskat.

This is the scene at the Indigenous Northern Affairs Canada office, where Idle No More Toronto has occupied the small space at Yonge and St. Clair in protest of the federal government’s inaction leading to a state of emergency in the northern Ontario First Nation.

About 30 protesters arrived around 10 a.m. at the office, where they called on the INAC executive director to address demands for better living conditions and access to resources for Attawapiskat youth.

“They have nothing to do out there, nothing that a basic teenager would have,” Carrie Lister, a spokesperson for Idle No More, says. She lists off places many Torontonian teens would take for granted: the movie theatre, the skateboard park, the library.

Attawapiskat First Nation, located in James Bay and home to about 2,000, declared a state of emergency on April 9, after 11 people attempted suicide that night alone.

Lister says INAC’s executive director offered to speak with an Idle No More representative in private, but the group is demanding a public discussion. Protesters are willing to stay as long as it takes to get a public response from the director, she adds.

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto were also in attendance to show solidarity.

So far, the protest has been peaceful: some police officers are present, Lister says, but the group has not been forced out.

UPDATE, 9:30 PM: The INAC has responded to Torontoist‘s request for comment. “Since the past weekend officials have been working with the First Nation, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and provincial colleagues to provide mental health and community supports to Attawapiskat and the individuals and families in need. It is important to address the immediate crisis,” spokesperson Valérie Heche wrote in an email. “INAC and Health Canada have dedicated staff working on a priority basis on these issues.”