Canada
Aboriginals demand access to mainstream services after teen suicide pact

ADA SILVINSKI | QMI AGENCY

VANCOUVER -- A local community group is calling for co-ordinated social services to help inner-city youth after 30 children, mostly 12- and 13-year-old aboriginals, formed a suicide pact in downtown Vancouver earlier this year.

According to Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement (ALIVE), the problem is a parallel social-service system for aboriginals, who are forced into specialized services and programs and often turned away from mainstream resources.

"The government has instituted what is effectively an apartheid system. This is morally and ethically wrong," Scott Clark, ALIVE's executive director, said at a press conference Tuesday.

The group argued that most aboriginal youth would prefer to use existing community services.

"We're at this point where we're no longer affected by residential school and the after effects. We're the first generation to not be affected by that," said 24-year-old Ambrose Williams, an aboriginal youth leader for ALIVE.

Rumors about a preteen suicide pact in the inner city had begun circulating in September. A concerned community member posted a notice on Facebook and outreach agencies and emergency workers intervened. After blacking out from heavy drinking or participating in acts of self harm, 24 of the 30 teens were hospitalized.

Clark complained the government ignored these children's cries for help and this needs to change to prevent such situations from recurring.

Premier Christy Clark addressed the issue Tuesday.
"When the government became aware of it, they contacted the children's parents, which is the first most important step to take," she said.

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