Fed up with playing music at funerals, north Sask. fiddler walks to legislature to call for suicide prevention help
PRINCE ALBERT -- Tristen Durocher is walking from La Ronge to the Saskatchewan Legislature to protest the government’s refusal to pass a suicide prevention bill.
The 24-year-old, a Métis fiddle player, took notice of amount of youth suicide as he was often asked to play at funerals across the north.
Durocher and his supporters left La Ronge July 2 and aim to reach Regina later this summer.
Upon arriving in the province's capital, he plans to begin a hunger strike.
He said the issue needs to be declared a public health crisis.
“They don’t have any policies legislated into law so there is no accountability for any action or inaction they perform. So I want to end that. I want there to never be a chance or opportunity for a government in power again to do nothing," he said.
“Several reserves across Saskatchewan have declared states of emergency and it didn't do them any good. La Ronge has declared a state of emergency. We buried more than five girls in a single winter Politicians came, took a few pictures, called that consultation and continued to do nothing.”
In May, the province released Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan.
However, one month later, the provincial government defeated the NDP-proposed Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act.
The walk is called Walking with Our Angels and is being highlighted with a Facebook page of the same name. Durocher is walking every step of the journey for those who have died and is taking in the beauty of nature that surrounds him in honour of their spirits.
The hashtag for their campaign is #yanawansca. Yana is an acronym for “you are not alone” and wansca is Cree for “wake up.” They are also wearing shirts from the Every Child Matters campaign.
“The elders' belief is that when someone takes their own life they still wander. Their spirits are still angry, their spirits are still grieving. So along this trip I really don't have the belief that we're walking alone, I feel that our angels are walking among us,” said Durocher.
Christopher Merasty is accompanying Durocher on the walk. His daughter attempted to take her own life when she was a young teen and his family struggled to find help for her while living in the province’s north.
“For us, we had to secure funding. We had to send her halfway across the country to get adequate treatment for her situation,” Merasty said.
Durocher said the suicide crisis stems from a range of issues that have plagued Indigenous people and were largely brought about by governments, including residential school, systematic assimilation and starvation tactics used on the Cree with the decimation of the plains bison.
“If they funded our destruction, they owe it us to help fund our healing.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available. Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645) and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868) offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues. If you need immediate assistance call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. The Centre for Suicide Prevention is a place where resources on suicide prevention can be found.