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LA RONGE, Sask. — The federal government is putting up $1.2 million over two years for more mental-health support in two northern Saskatchewan indigenous communities.
Health Minister Jane Philpott says the money will allow expanded culturally safe mental health and addictions services for the Peter Ballantyne Cree National and Lac La Ronge Indian band.
Philpott made the announcement in La Ronge where six girls between the ages of 10 and 14 from the community and surrounding area committed suicide last fall.
Philpott said the federal government recognizes the seriousness of mental-health issues facing indigenous people and is committed to supporting them.
Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the suicides in northern Saskatchewan a tragedy and said the federal government is committed to working with indigenous communities.
The chiefs of the two First Nations say they welcome the funding, but there is a long way to go to address the crises faced in their communities.
"The crises we have faced in our communities has taken a toll on many of our families, and we recognize that healing process will continue on for some time," Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of Lac La Ronge Indian Band said in a release.
"The trauma runs deep and there is still much more work to do ahead. As we work on our larger mental health strategy, we look forward to continuing our discussions with the federal government to advance our plans for a holistic wellness centre that can not only lead to lasting change for today's generation but for those to come."
Chief Peter Beatty, of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, called the funding a "positive step" but said long-term strategies are needed.
The Liberal government's budget last month promised $118 million over five years for community-driven mental-health programming for First Nations and Inuit.
The Canadian Press