Sol Mamakwa, Ontario MPP, Wants Action After 13-Year-Old Dies By Suicide

Emma Paling
Ontario MPP Sol Mamakwa speaks during question period at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday.

In a rare moment on Thursday, all the MPPs at Queen's Park agreed on something.

A resounding "yes" filled the chamber after NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa asked for a moment of silence to honour Karlena Kamenawatamin. The 13-year-old from Bearskin Lake, Ont. took her own life on Wednesday morning.

"For the whole House to stand up in the memory of this young girl, it was very moving to me," Mamakwa told HuffPost Canada.

He rose in question period to tell the government Kamenawatamin's story and ask what Premier Doug Ford will do to support young people in his riding. Mamakwa represents the far-north constituency of Kiiwetinoong, which is has an Indigenous population of 68 per cent.

Watch the touching exchange:

Mamakwa stressed in question period that multiple issues are at play when a young person dies by suicide.

"This is a health crisis. This is a mental health crisis. This is an intergenerational trauma crisis. This is a housing crisis."

He said Kamenawatamin lived in a house that did not have electricity.

Ford referred the MPP's questions to ministers Christine Elliott and Lisa MacLeod for response.

When we spoke right after, it wasn't the PC government, it wasn't the NDP, it was just a human being to a human being. Sol Mamakwa

But Mamakwa said the premier came over to shake his hand after question period. And MacLeod and another minister, Greg Rickford, approached Mamakwa to ask what they could do to support people in Bearskin Lake.

"When we spoke right after, it wasn't the PC government, it wasn't the NDP, it was just a human being to a human being," Mamakwa said.

Government hasn't mentioned reconciliation: MPP

In the long-term, Mamakwa said he hopes the Progressive Conservatives will initiate a major transformation of government systems. But so far, he's not impressed with their approach.

"The health system, the education system, the court system, the child welfare system, these are all colonial systems," he said. The government's thinking needs to change so that First Nations communities are "in the driver's seat," rather than being told what to do.

"That's part of reconciliation. That's one of the things that this government hasn't done since we started this session. They've never, never mentioned reconciliation."

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He pointed out that the Ford government decided not to have a minister for Indigenous Affairs. Rickford works on the file but also covers energy, northern development and mines.

"As a First Nations person, we're not even on the menu," Mamakwa said. "We've got to be part of these discussions."