NAN celebrates Choose Life at virtual event

By Dariya Baiguzhiyeva
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) celebrated the success of its Choose Life program and honoured the work that’s being done across NAN communities during a virtual event Friday.

An agreement between NAN and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) for faster funding to prevent child and youth suicide started in 2017.

Choose Life provides immediate funding relief and aims to prevent child and youth suicide through community-based mental health services, capacity building and empowerment, and land-based cultural activities.

“When we began this very important initiative five years ago, we were in pain. We were suffering, we were grieving because we have lost kids, children (to suicide),” Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said at the virtual event.

According to today’s news release, NAN also released and submitted two independent midterm reports to the ISC.

The reports recommended increasing the age of participation in programming to include youth up to 24 years of age, expanding funding, supporting more language, land-based and cultural events and programs and providing long-term federal funding.

“We’re committed to making sure the government commits, not just extend Choose Life but make it permanent,” Fiddler said. “The reports demonstrate how effective, how good, how great Choose Life is and how we need to make it permanent.

From its start in February 2020, Choose Life has provided funding to organizations serving about 20,000 children and youth annually across NAN communities, according to NAN.

The two videos presented during Friday’s event highlighted the work being done in NAN communities and featured first-hand experiences of Choose Life co-ordinators, youth and NAN leaders.

At the event, Mattagami First Nation’s Chief Chad Boissoneau said the program in his community has inspired its elders, community members and frontline workers to participate and support youth by giving them direction and confidence.

“In the youth that are participating I’ve seen so many positive changes in our community,” he said.