Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

OTTAWA, ON (March 1, 2017)— In response to the ongoing national suicide crisis facing First Nations people, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and the AFN National Executive, including the AFN Elders, Women’s and Youth Councils, are calling for a National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits to be held on Friday, March 17th.

“On this day, we are asking First Nations men and women to come together in prayer and ceremony to bring peace and healing for our people,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who will mark the occasion at a pipe ceremony and traditional feast at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. “Our message to our young ones is, you are important. You are special. You matter. And we are working hard every day to make things better for you. So don’t despair because there is always a way forward. And prayer and ceremony is an important part of that path.”

AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, chair of the national Chiefs Committee on Health, stated: “Canada is celebrating the 150th year of Confederation but far too many of our children and youth cannot even celebrate their own lives. This National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits is a reminder that much work needs to be done to end poverty and despair.  When our youth are able to see hope for the future then all Canadians will be able to celebrate. This will be true reconciliation.”

The AFN Elders Council issued a statement: “The AFN Elders Council supports the National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits and will participate in their regions and communities to provide the spiritual assistance that is needed in our communities. Our prayers go to all the Peoples across our ancestral lands, we pray for you on this day. Please accept our prayers being sent to you.”

The AFN Women’s Council issued a supportive statement to all First Nations youth: “On behalf of the AFN Women’s Council, we also support this National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits and will participate wherever we may be across Turtle Island.‎ In our sacred role as life givers and caretakers of life, we want to assure our children, our youth, our families that we will rise above the colonization trauma. As women and with our unconditional love, we will send our prayers and/or perform ceremonies towards life promotion and the well-being of our people on this day.”

The AFN Youth Council is supporting and participating, saying in a collective statement: “The AFN Youth Council supports the National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits and will participate in our regions. We will support any spiritual initiatives or help create spiritual connections in our regions. Our prayers go to all the youth across our ancestral lands. We pray for you on this day. Remember that you matter to us.”

The AFN is asking Indigenous peoples and all Canadians to pray or perform ceremonies according to their own beliefs, faiths and customs. The intention is to inspire youth to embrace life.

The AFN will be providing more information about the National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits on the AFN website at www.afn.ca and watch for the National Circle of Ceremony and Healing for Our Spirits Event page on the AFN Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AssemblyofFirstNations/