SASKATOON — Saskatchewan’s new advocate for children and youth says he is heading north as soon as possible.
Tuesday marked Corey O’Soup’s first day in the role, after taking over from the previous advocate Bob Pringle.
He says his first priority will be getting together with leaders in northern communities to work on addressing a wave of suicides that’s seen six girls between 10 and 14 years old take their own lives in a month.
O’Soup says he learned a lot before becoming advocate while helping to co-ordinate the province’s response to January’s school shooting in La Loche.
He says one of the biggest lessons was that solutions for the North won’t come from Regina or Saskatoon.
He says he and his staff hope to be up north by the end of the week.
“We have to be there. We have to be on the ground,” he says. “We have to be face-to-face and we have to be sitting there, together, working out solutions.”
While response to the immediate crisis is a high priority, O’Soup says he hopes to see more efforts directed at prevention.
He says that could include things like better mental health supports and education for youth, alongside programming for parents.
O’Soup notes the problem of youth suicides in Saskatchewan’s North isn’t new and says he hopes the latest crisis has brought enough attention to the issue to drive change.
“This isn’t the first time that children have done this or that this has happened to them. But this is the biggest spotlight they’ve had. So we need to use this time to make sure the supports are in place and to ensure governments are reacting the way they should be.”