Question asked to the government on October 14th, 2011 during the debate on the Liberal motion on suicide prevention

Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, if the mental health of first nations is so important to the Conservative government, why was nearly $500,000 cut from the Wapikoni project, which helps youth who are often at risk of committing suicide? Mental health is a very important aspect of this project. Why was funding slashed?

Mr. Rick Norlock: Mr. Speaker, I do not know the specific circumstances to which the member refers. However, had she listened to my speech she would have heard that literally tens of millions of dollars went to individual communities right across this country.

As a former police officer who has worked in the north of Ontario, especially northeastern Ontario and along the James Bay and Hudson Bay coast, I can say that both provincial and federal governments continue to work hard to address the situation of suicide and particularly among our youth.

As I mentioned, the north has some unique circumstances. There are communities located literally hundreds of miles away from the closest road. There are no mines, no forest industry and no opportunities for employment. The struggle is how to encourage employment. How do we create jobs and an economic atmosphere for those communities to enjoy the same kind of lifestyle as those further south that are close to highways and the like?

Inasmuch as the member has referred to some programs that may have been cut, in addition there are many programs that have been created that are addressing not only the circumstances of suicide regarding the young but in communities also.

From a family perspective I can say that I am aware of and understand some of the circumstances mentioned by one of the previous questioners regarding the living conditions in Pikangikum. They relate specifically to the isolation of that community vis-à-vis its closeness to employment opportunities and the tremendous challenges most northern communities have.