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Vancouver Aboriginal suicide pact symptom of sick system

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – One group is calling on all levels of government to focus more on taking care of Aboriginal youth in our cities and integrating them further into society.  This comes in light of a possible suicide pact among dozens of youth, many of them believed to be Aboriginal and living in the Grandview-Woodlands area.

Scott Clark with the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE) says the group is calling for immediate action from all levels of government, adding the suicide pact is a symptom of a sick system.

“The current structure is clearly not working. Institutional partners seem to spend most of their time trying to avoid taking responsibility,” says Clark.

He says too often Aboriginal children are put into alternate schools or given help from Aboriginal agencies; he wants more integration into mainstream programs.

“Research has shown that more Aboriginal children now live as government wards than were ever in residential schools.  Many of our most at risk youth have been sidelined into the alternative school stream before even entering high school, placing them with much older teens.”

He is calling for conclusive government strategies.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Children and Family Development has issued this statement:

The health and safety of children and youth is the ministry’s top priority.

The ministry continues to work collaboratively with the Health Authority and community agencies to monitor the situation and ensure the at-risk youth are getting the services they need. In the meantime, the ministry and the local health authority has increased its prevention focus and is providing suicide education to families, agencies and school personnel in the area.

The ministry would be pleased to meet with any community agency to discuss their concerns and any ideas they might have to improve supports for vulnerable children and families.

The ministry funds a number of agencies that provide resources and support to assist at-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside, including the Urban Native Youth Association and Directions Youth Services Centre.

The ministry invests approximately $94 million annually to address child and youth mental health and substance use challenges. Over 20 thousand children and youth receive community mental health services annually – approximately double the number that received services in 2003.