An official from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band is sounding the alarm about increasing suicides in Saskatchewan’s northern communities.

Devin Bernatchez believes the pandemic is causing more depression, addiction and suicides. Bernatchez invited the Minister of Rural and Remote Health Everett Hindley to come to northern Saskatchewan to assist.

“People have lost jobs, mom and dad have lost jobs. Kids were told to get out of school, kids were told to learn online, kids were told you couldn’t play sports anymore. So how does that affect depression?” Bernatchez, who represents Sucker River, said. “It increases it and so you know we’ve seen this pandemic increase suicide, you know that whole mentality and the depressed state, in the North more so.”

Bernatchez wants collaboration with the government on suicide prevention programs. He had a moment on Monday to express the need to HIndle, who said he had heard of the issue “anecdotally.”

“I thank the individual, Devin from Sucker River who came down to visit us today to talk about the story in his community,” Hindley said.

Tristan Durocher’s suicide awareness camp last year led to the passage of a Suicide Prevention Strategy but northern MLA Doyle Vermette says he hasn’t seen much action since.

“No action. That’s what I’m saying, no action so we’re watching that and it needs to be a partnership and Devin talks about this,” Vermette, NDP MLA said. “He’s willing to work, he’s here. He wants to work with the federal government, the provincial government.”

Bernatchez invited the Hindley to come to Northern Saskatchewan.

“Come onto our reserve, come into our communities. Don’t be scared to come into the rez. You know we invite you. Come and see it for yourself you know, and let’s see how we can help people out,” Bernatchez said.

The government has accepted the invitation. Hindley will be travelling to Sucker River in the next few months.