It was the third time Doyle Vermette, the opposition critic for mental health and addictions, brought forward The Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, 2021, Bill 601. The provincial government voted it down twice, once in 2018 and again in 2019.
“I can’t stop thinking of all the families over the last few years who have approached me to share their story of a child, a parent or loved one they’ve lost,” Vermette said in a press release on Friday.
“We told them we wouldn’t give up and we would keep pushing this government to do more, to be better, and to do the right thing. It was a long road to get here but really it’s those families that I’m thinking of right now.”
Those failed attempts by the NDP led Tristan Durocher to trek 635 kilometres from Air Ronge to Regina under the ‘Walking With Our Angels’ slogan to protest this past summer on the grounds of Wascana Park across the Legislative Building.
Durocher fasted for 44 days, one day for ever Saskatchewan Party MLA who had previously voted against Bill 601.
“This is a good day, but this is just one of many steps needed to start to combat this crisis. We know that suicide and mental health is a leading contributing factor to Indigenous deaths in this province, especially in the North among our youth and we need to move quickly on this,” Vermette said.
“Now we need to ensure that this government follows through and begins to consult with those on the ground and gets the ball rolling on this as soon as possible.”
The bill mandates the Ministry of Health to begin consultations with appropriate stakeholders and other relevant groups within 180 days of coming into force.
It also directs the ministry to establish a suicide prevention strategy and every year report on the progress it’s made.
Other requirements to the Ministry of Health include:
- Provide guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge about suicide;
- Disseminate information about suicide and suicide prevention;
- Make information about suicide statistics and risk factors available;
- Promote collaboration across jurisdictions and regions;
- Define best practices for suicide prevention and;
- Promote the use of research and evidence-based practices for the prevention of suicide.
The government said the bill work alongside the Pillars of Life, a plan introduced by the Saskatchewan Party in 2020 to help bring down the number of suicides happening in the province.
“It’s a complex issue, a very complex issue and not something that is easily remedied,” said Everett Hindley, Saskatchewan’s minister of mental health and addictions, seniors and rural and remote health. “Work has happened in the past years, and it will continue in the years ahead.”
The Pillars for Life plan includes $1.2 million this fiscal year for measures including expanding mental health first aid and training, conducting research and delivering a public awareness campaign aimed at youth in northern Saskatchewan.