Inuk woman bikes across Canada to raise awareness about Indigenous suicides

Hannah Tooktoo has so far raised $22,531 from online donors

Hannah Tooktoo, an Inuk mother from Nunavik, Que., climbed off her bike on Thursday, 55 days after pedalling across the country to raise awareness about the suicides ravaging her community.

Tooktoo, 24, started her journey in Victoria without knowing if she would be able to finish. Eight weeks later, she arrived in Montreal’s downtown Cabot Square square to cheers and applause from supporters.

“It has been really good for me — for my body, for my soul,” said the visual arts student from Montreal’s Dawson College. She called her tour, “Anirnimi Kipisina,” which means “Do not cut your life short ” in Inuktitut.

Tooktoo has so far raised $22,531 from online donors.

“I’m good, I’m very strong right now,” she said. ”My body feels good. My legs are good. I feel really good. In the last years, this is the best shape I’ve been in.”

Three days before she arrived in Montreal, Sylvie D’Amours, Quebec’s minister for Indigenous affairs, said what’s happening in the province’s Far North is “very, very worrying.”

In Nunavik alone, a massive territory which is home to 14 communities numbering about 13,000 people, 19 people — including five children — killed themselves during the first half of this year, according to a July report by Montreal La Presse.

In 2018, the total number of suicides in Nunavik was 36, according to the news organization.

ALSO READ: Coroner reports decrease in suicide rates across B.C.

Statistics Canada released a report in June that stated from 2011 to 2016, suicide rates among First Nations people were three times higher than among the non-Indigenous population.

But among the Inuit, “the rate was approximately nine times higher than the non-Indigenous rate.”

Tooktoo said she travelled through cities and many Indigenous communities along her trip. She said she was surprised at first by the welcome she received.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about suicide,” she said.

“It’s a heavy subject, it’s personal. A lot of people have been affected by suicide, a lot of Indigenous and Inuit people especially, and I wanted to talk about that and they were very welcoming and very open, which was a beautiful surprise for me.”

When she first started, Tooktoo said she would walk into band council offices and had to explain her project. Officials would make time for her. Sometimes over lunch, other times “right then and there we would talk about their community.”

But more towards the end of her trip, people were waiting for her to arrive.

“They saw my tour and they’re like: ‘I’m here, let me make an event!’ And they made an event all on their own — no prompting from me. It’s been a privilege to be able to speak to them and to listen to them.”

Tooktoo said she was at times discouraged when the terrain got tough. At one point she began crying in the mountains of British Columbia.

“There was a point where I was going uphill in British Columbia and I was going like five kilometres per hour and looking at the beautiful view, I started crying from being thankful,” she said.

And the tears came back when she arrived home because she saw her three-year-old daughter.

“My daughter’s been missing me a lot and I’ve been missing her too,” Tooktoo said. “Since we’ve been reunited, she’s been stuck to my side for the last few days.”

Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Holidays can be stressful enough without a visit from the fire department

The Castor Volunteer Fire Department is made up of around 18 members

Lacombe resident to establish scholarship to help kids in Uganda

‘Through the Eyes of the Children’ to help four orphaned children in Africa

‘You can take the kid from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the kid!’

Former area resident Maxine Berry reflects on growing up years in Endiang region

Red Deer-Lacombe MP, other Conservative MPs meet with AB justice minister

Calkins said the justice system is a revolving door for criminals targeting rural areas

Lighting up a Stettler neighbourhood for a terrific cause

Every year, the Maruk family puts up an amazing Christmas lights show

Fashion Fridays: A masterclass on H&M knitwear

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

‘He was good for the West:’ Sadness, surprise in Saskatchewan over Scheer

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and his predecessor, Brad Wall, both thanked Andrew Scheer

Travellers know little about air-passenger rights, Canadian poll suggests

The first set of passenger-rights rules landed in mid-July and the rest this weekend

Johnson claims Brexit mandate with new conservative majority

Conservative Party wins 365 seats in the House of Commons

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Alberta to change drug coverage for 26,000 patients, expects to save up to $380M

Patients being treated with biologics on government-sponsored drug plans must switch to biosimilars

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Most Read