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Canada Saskatchewan NDP calls for action after series of indigenous youth suicides

The Saskatchewan legislature is seen in this file photo.

EVAN ANNETT/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

There is more heartbreak in northern Saskatchewan where another indigenous girl has committed suicide — the sixth in the province this month.

The NDP Opposition said the 13-year-old took her life on Sunday in La Ronge, a community about 250 kilometres north of Prince Albert.

Premier Brad Wall said the deaths have the undivided attention of northern leaders and the government.

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"This is unspeakably tragic, each one of these losses, and to have them one after the other," Wall said Monday.

Five other girls between 10 and 14 have killed themselves in the past few weeks in northern communities, including Loon Lake, Stanley Mission, Deschambault Lake and another teen in La Ronge.

Wall said the province has been working to bolster support for the communities, including an operations centre set up earlier this month to co-ordinate the delivery of mental health services.

There is also an emergency phone line that people who need help can call.

Wall said the provincial and federal governments will do more.

He agreed with a suggestion from the NDP to have the province's new advocate for children and youth make the plight of young people in the north a top priority.

"Everything is on the table," Wall said.

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"It is an all-of-the-above approach we need to take for this because we just can't afford to lose any (more) young girls or young people to this."

NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon said the suicides are a crisis that requires immediate action from the provincial government to prevent more deaths.

Wotherspoon said there must also be a long-term strategy to deal with the underlying causes of despair among young people in the north.

He said basic social services such as health, community recreation, classrooms, housing, mental health and addiction services are inadequate.

"We have a got a real shortfall to make up for," he said. "We cannot stand by and let this crisis continue. It is beyond sad."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the earlier suicides in northern Saskatchewan a tragedy and said the federal government is committed to working with indigenous communities to deal with the problem.

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Health Canada has said more mental-health workers and other health-care professionals have been sent to communities that have requested them.

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