An open letter to the prime minister


While on holiday in the south this summer I read of the death by suicide of former MP Dave Batters, of both his and his family’s honesty about his battle with depression, and of your poignant comments after his funeral.

“I just want anyone who has been touched by suicide and depression to know, ‘You’re not alone,'” you said, “and I want their loved ones to know ‘You’re not alone.'”

You noted that mental illness affects “the great and the small alike,” and that “it’s a terribly prevalent problem with a terrible and undeserving stigma attached to it.” Well said.

I write you not to bring to your attention the seriousness of the suicide situation here in Nunavut, for as our MP — and your minister of health — Leona Aglukkaq may have informed you, the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. are working together to develop more effective suicide prevention strategies for our territory.

Instead, I write you to note that Canada is almost alone among the developed countries in not having a national suicide prevention strategy. During the Chrétien-Martin era, among English-speaking countries alone Australia, New Zealand, the United States, England, Scotland and Wales all developed and implemented national suicide prevention strategies. Canada did not.

The death of someone loved by those in office can make a difference if sorrow is turned into positive energy – try googling “Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act” to see what difference the death of the son of a U.S. senator has made.

Prime Minister Harper and Minister Aglukkaq, please remember Dave Batters, look at what other countries have done, and show leadership on this most difficult of issues at a national level.

Amanda Ford
Nunavut NDP Riding Association

Editor’s note: Dave Batters, who served as a Conservative MP between 2004 and 2008, died by suicide June 29 at his home in Saskatchewan.

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