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Suicide in Canada

Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Suicide was decriminalized in Canada in 1972, while physician-assisted suicide was decriminalized in 2015.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Quebec Superior Court Rules Parts of MAID Laws are Unconstitutional

A Quebec Superior Court judge ruled that both federal and provincial laws governing medical assistance in dying (MAID) are unconstitutional. Since the assistance is only available to people facing “reasonably foreseeable death,” the laws were deemed too restrictive. Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that the laws violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the right to equality, because “The reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement deprives both individuals and claimants of their autonomy and their choice to end their lives at the time and in the manner desired.” Both governments were given six months to revise the law.

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Reserve Declares State of Emergency After Three Suicides and Four Attempts in One Month

Chief Ronald Mitsuing of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, located northwest of Saskatoon, declared that the community of 1,000 people was in a state of emergency and a state of crisis after three people, including a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old, committed suicide in the space of a month. At least four others attempted suicide in that time. “The community and our frontline workers are looking for immediate relief; and we are calling on our local, provincial and federal governments for support,” Mitsuing said in a statement. (See also Suicide Among Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Inuk Woman Completes Cross-Canada Bike Trip for Suicide Awareness

Hannah Tooktoo, an Inuk mother from Nunavik, Quebec, completed a 55-day bicycle journey from Victoria to Montreal to bring awareness to the crisis of suicide among Indigenous people in Canada. Tooktoo raised more than $22,000 from online donations. According to Statistics Canada, suicide rates among Indigenous people between 2011 and 2016 were three times higher than among non-Indigenous Canadians.

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Suicide among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nations in Canada have suicide rates double that of the national average, and Inuit communities tend to have even higher rates. Suicide in these cases has multiple social and individual causes. To date, there are a number of emerging programs in suicide prevention by Indigenous organizations that attempt to integrate Indigenous knowledge with evidence-informed prevention approaches.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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George Chuvalo

George Chuvalo, CM, boxer (born 12 September 1937 in Toronto, ON). George Chuvalo is a three-time Canadian heavyweight champion boxer. He is perhaps best known for his full 15-round bout with world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali at Maple Leaf Gardens on 29 March 1966. Ali famously called Chuvalo “the toughest guy I ever fought.” Chuvalo posted a career record of 73-18-2, with 64 wins by knockout. He has also served as a prominent anti-drug advocate after losing two sons to drug overdoses and his wife and another son to suicide. A Member of the Order of Canada, Chuvalo has been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.

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Labrador Community Suffers 10 Youth Suicide Attempts in Less Than One Week

The Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation in central Labrador declared a suicide crisis after 10 young people in the community attempted suicide in less than a week. (See also Suicide Among Indigenous Peoples.) The attempts followed the drowning death of a 20-year-old woman, the most recent of more than a dozen deaths in the last year in the village of 1,300 people. In 2016, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that suicide rates among Innu people in Labrador were 14 times higher than suicide rates among non-Indigenous people in Newfoundland. (See also Reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador.)

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Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools

Historical trauma occurs when trauma caused by historical oppression is passed down through generations. For more than 100 years, the Canadian government supported residential school programs that isolated Indigenous children from their families and communities (see Residential Schools in Canada). Under the guise of educating and preparing Indigenous children for their participation in Canadian society, the federal government and other administrators of the residential school system committed what has since been described as an act of cultural genocide. As generations of students left these institutions, they returned to their home communities without the knowledge, skills or tools to cope in either world. The impacts of their institutionalization in residential school continue to be felt by subsequent generations. This is called intergenerational trauma.