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Embracing culture can help prevent suicide, students told

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Christine Daniels asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a questions at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Christine Daniels asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a questions at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe Thursday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/6/2016 (1265 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/6/2016 (1265 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When indigenous youth met the prime minister, he was asked about a topic of life-and-death seriousness: suicide.

Students from Children of the Earth high school had earlier written letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before they met him at the Winnipeg Free Press Café on Thursday.

COTE student Christine Daniels, 17, asked Trudeau about the suicide crises in Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario and Pimicikamak First Nation in Manitoba. She later said it was amazing to hear him speak about indigenous people and the importance of celebrating their culture.

"He's bringing back the old traditional ways that we don't remember and that we have no experience with," Daniels said. "I believe he's a good prime minister."

Daniels and other students in teacher Jeremy Midford's classes wrote letters to Trudeau about the suicide crises. Midford said the students posted the letters on Twitter, and didn't expect to hear back from Trudeau. He said indigenous youth are the future of the country and it was meaningful to see them grow through Thursday's question-and-answer period.

"One of the biggest goals in education is to grow responsible citizens, and that's one of the best ways they know how to be citizens, is be engaged in the conversation and guide it forward. Them being able to engage with the prime minister of our country was invaluable."

Jackie Connell, principal at COTE, said it was important for the students to hear Trudeau speak about how embracing indigenous culture can help prevent suicide.

"We have a lot of indigenous youth in the city as well as in northern communities that are struggling with suicide, and, unfortunately it's something that hits very close to home for a lot of our youth," Connell said.

"To hear him recognize the importance that culture plays as a preventative measure there is quite tremendous."

Connell said many students at COTE have left their northern communities and come to the inner-city school to get their high school diploma. She said it was special to some students to be invited to meet with Trudeau.

"When I was talking to students about the opportunity to come and listen to Mr. Trudeau speak today, one of the young girls got a little bit emotional and she was saying things to me like, 'I can't believe that some students from an inner-city high school, indigenous students, are being invited to meet with the prime minister. That he would think that would be important,'" Connell said. "That for me was really, really exciting about today. More exciting for me than listening to him was having the opportunity to watch them listen to him."

bailey.hildebrand@freepress.mb.ca

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