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Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, on Dec. 3, 2019. The federal government is committing $2.5-million dollars over the next two years to support the delivery of mental wellness services and prevention programs for Indigenous youth across Saskatchewan.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government is committing $2.5-million over the next two years to support mental-health services and suicide-prevention programs for Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations made the announcement in Saskatoon.

A number of young people in several Indigenous communities in the province have taken their own lives in recent months.

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The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation at Loon Lake, for one, has raised concerns about what it has called “cluster suicides” – three deaths over three weeks, including that of a 10-year-old girl.

While in Saskatchewan, Mr. Miller met with Makwa Chief Ronald Mitsuing and members of the community, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

Chief Louis Mercredi of the Fond du Lac First Nation says he is tired of “Band-Aid” solutions and wants more long-term help.

“That $2.5-million that’s been announced, that’s not enough,” the chief of the northern fly-in Dene community said Thursday. “We should be getting more. The province should match this $2.5-million as well.

“There should be no dollar figure on human lives.”

Another leader said her First Nation’s immediate concern is to support families after a number of tough weeks.

Chief Margaret Bear of the Ochapowace First Nation in southern Saskatchewan said her community has lost four young people to suicide since Sept. 14.

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“We are a community, a nation, who have lost … our warriors and young men,” she said. “Today we are hurting.”

Indigenous Services Canada says it has provided more than $32-million this fiscal year for mental-health services and supports to First Nations youth in Saskatchewan.

Warren Kaeding, the province’s minister responsible for rural and remote health, said Saskatchewan has a number of initiatives to try to address concerns over self-harm.

Government officials are continuing to work toward identifying suicide issues and strategies, he added.

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