Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit June 27, 2018 - 1:50 pm

Nunavut suicides are a “public health emergency”: Iqaluit city councillor

“Our need is great but our resources are far too few”

Kyle Sheppard, an Iqaluit city councillor, says Nunavut's suicide epidemic is a public health emergency. He's calling on the federal government  “to put boots on the ground in any Nunavut community that requests it.
Kyle Sheppard, an Iqaluit city councillor, says Nunavut's suicide epidemic is a public health emergency. He's calling on the federal government “to put boots on the ground in any Nunavut community that requests it." (FILE PHOTO)

In the wake of the recent suicides of two young men, an Iqaluit city councillor is demanding action from both the federal and territorial governments to respond to what he calls an ongoing crisis in Nunavut.

“Suicide is a public health emergency in Nunavut and not enough is being done to stem the tide,” said Iqaluit councillor Kyle Sheppard in a statement he read to Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

“There are action plans in various stages of development and lip service paid to the crisis each time another is lost. But nothing changes. We move on as a community, or seemingly so, perhaps compartmentalizing the loss until the inevitable next one.”

All Nunavummiut have been impacted by this epidemic and there needs to be a stronger response, Sheppard said.

This far into 2018, Nunavut’s Coroner’s Service said there have already been 16 suicides throughout Nunavut, all of them completed by men.

The agency said the ages of the deceased men range between 15 and 46 years.

Sheppard called on the federal government, including its territorial representatives MP Hunter Tootoo and Senator Dennis Patterson, “to put boots on the ground in any Nunavut community that requests it to end the inexcusable wait times Nunavummiut face when they seek mental health help.”

“Even those who ask for help don’t get it today in any sort of reasonable time-frame with wait times of several months and even up to a year in many cases,” Sheppard said. “Our need is great but our resources are far too few.”

Sheppard acknowledged that health care is under territorial jurisdiction, but said the Government of Nunavut has shown no ability to provide the required resources to “put a dent in” Nunavut’s suicide crisis.

Still, Sheppard called on Nunavut MLAs to ensure there are full-time, qualified counsellors who specialize in intervention and detecting early warning signs available at every school in Nunavut—before students return to school at the end of the summer.

He also wants the territory’s schools to incorporate more suicide prevention education in the classroom, like teaching students coping skills and how to ask for help when they need it.

For older students, Sheppard recommended the GN create and promote post-secondary opportunities for students to work in the field of mental health care.

“For too many of my friends and family, it is already too late,” he said. “Let’s act now before it is too late for someone else.”

Kim Masson, executive director of the Embrace Life Council, said that although her organization is not a front-line service provider, it is “working incredibly hard” to help Nunavummiut access the programs and services.

That includes delivering its “After a Suicide” toolkit to affected families and high school students in Iqaluit this week, as well as to grieving relatives in Rankin Inlet, where the council now has a new staff member.

The kit offers a Nunavut-specific approach to grieving and loss, along with advice on dealing with the practical matters that arise when someone dies.

The council also provides trauma-informed practice, First Aid and ASIST training, and bereavement counselling and will roll out a Nunavut-specific child sexual abuse prevention training resource this fall.

Embrace Life Council's list of resources for Nunavummiut in crisis by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(18) Comments:

#1. Posted by Ice Class on June 27, 2018

Thank you Councillor Sheppard!
How come the mayor never has anything to say about these issues, why does she only talk about the good news stories?
Why haven’t we heard from our senator on this issue?

#2. Posted by Jack Hicks on June 27, 2018

Very well put, Kyle Sheppard. A few years ago I co-delivered ASIST training for all school employees—Principal to janitors—in a Nunavut community. It was a powerful eye-opener for my co-trainer, a very experienced woman from the South. After the workshop she asked me, “But where was the school psychologist? Surely every school in Nunavut has a child psychologist to help kids deal with the stresses in their lives?”

#3. Posted by lol on June 27, 2018

lol Jack Hicks you worked for the GN for years on the suicide file and did nothing but better yourself, move south and cry about GN stuff

Thank you Mr. Sheppard, I only have hope someone with power heard you!

#4. Posted by Get real! on June 27, 2018

#3 Jack Hicks is one man, he tried to make improvements but we need our elected officials to make this a priority! Give direction and really work on this serious issue.

What has the GN or the Federal Government done to date? If Nunavut was a country we would have the highest suicide rate in the world!

What are the plans in place to improve mental health, what are the plans to improve support services for mental health?

We need more leaders to talk about this and make it a priority that it is. Not wait or ignore it, stop pretending it’s ok and do something about it!

#5. Posted by Sled dog on June 27, 2018

Stick to muni politics kyle. Stay in your lane

#6. Posted by Jack Hicks on June 27, 2018

#3, I miss you too! You probably wouldn’t appreciate two articles in the curent issue of Northern Public Affairs—“Early childhood adversity as a key mechanism by which colonialism is mediated into suicidal behaviour” (, co-authored with Dr. Allison Crawford from CAMH) and “A critical analysis of myth-perpetuating research on suicide prevention” (—but other Nunatsiaq News readers might be.

#7. Posted by Don't wait for government on June 27, 2018

Where are the Inuit leaders on this issue? Where are the elders of the communities? They need to step up and take care of their youth!!!
You don’t need funding to come together as a community in the local gym, or to talk and listen, to inspire and encourage…

It has been a difficult history but any positive healing and change has to start from the inside out. Don’t wait for government!!!(nothing will change)

#8. Posted by Teacher on June 27, 2018

Yes—it’s 2018—how many years after Nunavut became its own territory: I’ve been teaching here that whol time and never encounter an educational psychologist. The need for such individuals is huge. 

I’m tired of the is government repeatedly failing its children. Identified children need full assessments early in their school years, with the government providing adequate resources to meet the needs of these students—so many more kids would stand a chance.  This would also require that students be followed and reassed periodically by Ed. Psychologists.

  School community counsellors who are from the community: pluses and minuses.  A lot of teens do not feel comfortable with talking about “hard topics” with an SCC from their community.  Often that person is a family member and/or there are trust and other issues.  Why. Do those with mental illnesses only get to see their psychiatrist a couple times a year.  Here people went more than 9 months: unacceptable.

#9. Posted by Observer on June 28, 2018

Although I feel for all those that lost their lives to suicide in the north suicide is now an epidemic everywhere..try to get help down south it is just as hard to find mental health councillors and phsychatrist.

#10. Posted by Crisis on June 28, 2018

Thank you Mr. Sheppard. We do have a crisis and we are not facing it, we are doing nothing to solve the problem. I think it is disgusting that we have had 2 suicides over the past weekend, two beautiful young people removed from the future of Nunavut leaving behind tonnes and tonnes of hurt for their families and friends. The fact that we can save these young people is a crime, the system is broken and needs to be fixed. We have to heal and we have to keep talking about the issue, we need to get on the streets and do something rather than grieving after the fact. We will talk about Max and PJ for the week and then its gone until we have the next Max or the next Paul. We have heard from city council but nothing from the GN, nothing from the Minister of Health of the Minister of Family Services. I call on Mr. John Main to stand in the house and demand answers, I suggest that both Ministers be removed from their assignments, they are doing nothing to help this situation.

#11. Posted by Curious Continued on June 28, 2018

We stand in the house and cry over money spent at a trade show when we should be fighting for our kids, our future. The police have become cold to this issue, they don’t think its a problem. members that feel that way and you know who you are should move on, find another place to not care.
The GN, Feds, and NTI need to step up and stop providing lip service and paying big dollars to consultants to write shit that never gets read, bring the stuff to the people, find a way to open the doors, find a way to help kids like Max who struggled for how long? We don’t know how long because we are not asking, we are not talking about the issue. we have not heard a word of comfort from our Government. You have failed us, you should be replaced instead of going to facebook to raise money to bury our kids or love ones. Sell lives success not banana bread. The leaders are on holidays while our children die.

#12. Posted by Reality guy on June 28, 2018

We are all blaming the GN and the MLA’s , it is not their fault !
When my son took his own life, through serious mental illness it was a
terrible time and it takes a lot of strength for the family to get through
it. You will get over the tragedy, but you will always have the feeling
of loss and sadness now and again.
If some unfortunate soul decides to take their own life, how can we
prevent it ?
I do realize there are a lot of people making a lot of money over this
sad occurrence, all we hear are words and more words.

#13. Posted by Joanne Ashley on June 29, 2018

Thanks Kyle Sheppard!!! This is a National Travesty. Shame on Canada. Suicide in Nunavut is in crisis. It is 9x the National average. The Feds need to respond immediately with more funds and resources. G-N more immediate policy and programs to support families and youth. No more band-aids, get to the root, the source of the issue. Healthy coping strategy programs need to target youth and families. More personalized support for every family across Nunavut. More Inuit led land, sea and outdoor-adventure focused programs for youth and up to age 25 years of age that also focuses on coping strategies for life, managing healthy relationships and developing strong boundary-setting skills. More programs on social media/legal ramifications for alluding or directly stating someone should self-harm and also cyber-bullying. More programs on living a balanced life with electronic devices, social media and drugs
& alcohol. How dare Canadians be treated this way!!!!

#14. Posted by Quack Quack on June 29, 2018

Talk, talk, and bloody more talk !!
Start firing the people who are not doing their jobs, regardless of race
or relatives.
How do we stop someone committing suicide? I have no idea.
  We have all seen the highly paid advisors, having tea and bannock
with elders, and clapping their hands, accomplishing nothing.

#15. Posted by Root causes on June 29, 2018

This comment comes from a place of love for everyone affected.

Studies show that Inuit raised in the South have much lower suicide rates than Inuit raised in Nunavut, even though they share the same historical background.

(Note: Inuit raised in Nunavut who move South as adults are still Nunavut-raised Inuit for the purposes of these studies, and Inuit raised in the South who move to Nunavut as adults are still Southern-raised Inuit for the purposes of these studies).

Why is it that Southern-raised Inuit have much better outcomes than Nunavut-raised Inuit?

Because Nunavut communities do not have an economic basis to exist (especially since the collapse of the sealing economy).

Lack of a sufficient private sector, means lack of jobs for the growing population, and without enough jobs, there is no economic incentive to finish school and no clear future for modern Inuit youth, other than moving South.

#16. Posted by Oppurtunity on June 29, 2018

You make a very good point here !
I think in the future more Inuit people will choose to move south for
more opportunities such as housing, employment, and way cheaper
food prices.
You only have a problem with drugs & alcohol if you take them.
Personal discipline is very important.

#17. Posted by Seriously on June 29, 2018

#14, I totally agree with you. The firing should start with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Family Services. These are the people that families look to for some comfort even if it lip service at the time. It gives the families a little hope in the face of tragedy. Not a word of comfort from either.
#15, Great statement, I totally believe in your last paragraph. There is no relief in site to change this, when there are economic opportunities they are shot down for one reason or another yet we pump money into plans that never come to life.
Think of the families Minister’s, do the right thing and resign. Let’s get the face of respect back in our government. No surprised either of you have failed us.These faces of our children are not the faces of suicide and the pictures of the hurting families left behind.

#18. Posted by sigh on July 02, 2018


Your argument that it is a ‘lack of economic opportunity’ is all speculation with no evidence to back it up.

There’s plenty of jobs up north, they just mostly go to white people from the south.

If you want to look at root causes, its trauma. It gets passed down from one generation to the next from the toxic social environment that has developed in Nunavut.

Speculation is not helpful.

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