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

First big snowfall of season slows traffic and delights Cariboo Chilcotin children

Vehicle incident on Highway 97 has traffic reduced to single vehicle alternating

West Chilcotin nurse practitioner on receiving end of emergency health services

During the last five years Patrice Gordon has been working with others to improve rural health care

Atom Development Timberwolves strike silver in Salmon Arm

“It was a bit disappointing we didn’t get to put our best team out there in the final.”

Lakecity’s Cassius Ford having ‘tons of fun’ performing in Kamloops’ The Sound of Music

An 11-year-old lakecity musical theatre performer has achieved the chance of his young lifetime

Snowfall warning in effect for Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Chilcotin

Ten to 15 cm of snow is expected to fall beginning Thursday

VIDEO: MPs reflect on anti-feminist violence on 30th anniversary of Montreal massacre

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at Ecole polytechnique on the evening of Dec. 6, 1989

Single-lane alternating traffic on Highway 97 at Alexandria

A vehicle incident has closed one lane of Highway 97 Dec. 6

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

Most Read