This is the Canada we live in?

By: Leg 10 journey participant Sally Ng

Life on the water this past week has flown by – we’re now actually on our last night on the ship.
Over the past week, we’ve had so many incredible experiences that have sparked countless deep discussions on the importance of identity, culture, education and basic life necessities. The Canada C3 magical recipe that has brought us all together has pushed many of us to think in ways we never imagined and really showed us the impact of past and current actions.
One of the mornings while in Cambridge Bay, we had the Canadian Rangers demonstrate a mock search and rescue mission. The lead ranger Jimmy even jumped into the frigid waters of the Arctic (he did have a dry suit on, since you really would only last about five minutes in the water).

After meeting the rangers, we met about 15 of the junior rangers who had been from the nearby community of Toloyak. As a former Air Cadet and a current Lieutenant working with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program, I was very impressed to hear about the experiences of the youth in the region. The girls were very bubbly and happy to chat about learning to hunt, fish, survival skills, leadership skills and so much more.

You can easily see the pride of these young leaders, but there’s a darkness that looms… Over the past week, we have had a number of deep conversation about the current state of communities and have seen some of it first hand. If you are an Indigenous youth, based on the statistics… you are in danger.

As a Canadian who has been fortunate to build my career here and have worked with youth for several years in different capacities. The stats absolutely shock me…

“Suicide rates are 5 to 7X higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth.”

“Suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11x the national average.”

Source: CTV News

Some people think about this Canada C3 Experience as a “trip”, but it’s bigger than that. It’s much more… Everyone one on this ship has a story. The piece that’s hard to imagine is that so many people in the Indigenous communities have had suicide touch their lives. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and I can’t even imagine what so many people have lived through. Every single one of the Indigenous participants has been touched by suicide, which is shocking to me. But then on the other hand, the youth suicide rate in the communities has skyrocketed.

Youth in the communities are living with the after effects of many of their parents and family having gone through residential schools. The last residential school didn’t close until 1996. The intergenerational trauma has caused a multitude of social issues over the past few decades and beyond.

Just over 100 years ago, when the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913–1916) had explored the lands, the Inuit culture was strong and thriving. How is it that in less than 100 years, so much of the culture had completely disappeared? There are so many reasons for why this has happened, but a lot of it has been related to being forced to strip away their culture and ties to the land.

As Canadians, we have to take the time to learn, understand, ask and really get the truth behind what our government has previously done… AND need to continue to push the current government to make changes to help re-built the cultures that they previously stamped out.

This blog was originally posted on Sally’s Medium page.