Canadian Federal Policies and the Inuit Youth Suicide Crisis

Trauma and Reconciliation




Inuit youth, suicide prevention, Canada, intergenerational trauma, federal policies, residential schools, Indigenous people, Indigenous resilience, mental health


Since the late 1980s, an unusually high number of suicides and cases of self-harm has been recorded among the Indigenous inhabitants of the Canadian Arctic, the Inuit. The statistics on child and adolescent suicides are particularly drastic. This situation appears to be primarily a symptom of historical trauma which was acquired due to the colonization and assimilation processes and passed down from generation to generation. Federal policies, such as forced relocations and residential schools, have directly contributed to the severing of family ties and the abandonment of traditional lifestyles. Over the years, the federal government tried to address the issue of the Inuit youth suicide crisis through various proposals. The best strategies to end the suicide crisis seem to be the respect and incorporation of Indigenous leadership, upholding local traditions and ceremonies, as well as investing in psychological support and family therapy for the first inhabitants of the Arctic. To effectively address the problem, the solution must be comprehensive and Inuit-specific rather than symptom-focused. This article discusses how particular federal policies and programs in northern Canada have impacted the communal well-being of the Inuit, and it outlines the most important strategies aiming at decreasing suicide rates among Inuit youth.

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Author Biography

Gabriela Kwiatek, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland

Is a Ph.D. student at the Jagiellonian University’s Interdisciplinary Social Sciences “Society of the Future” Program and an Administrative Officer at LSE IDEAS CSEEP. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in American Studies. Her research has focused on reproductive rights, midwifery and healthcare in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand. She is a member of the North American Studies Academic Society at the Jagiellonian University and the Polish Association of Canadian Studies and has recently completed an internship at the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw. Her Ph.D. project is a continuation of previous research, exploring Indigenous-led healthcare organizations in Canadian British Columbia and Aotearoa.


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How to Cite

Kwiatek, G. “Canadian Federal Policies and the Inuit Youth Suicide Crisis: Trauma and Reconciliation”. Ad Americam, vol. 24, Nov. 2023, pp. 57-70, doi:10.12797/AdAmericam.24.2023.24.04.