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2014-02-19 at 16:41

NAN Embrace Life conference tackles tragedy, grief

By Jamie Smith,
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Death can shake a small community to its core.

It's something Lorraine Crane knows too well after five members of her Slate Falls community died in a car crash last summer. In an instant, four young people in their early 20s and a former chief were gone.

"Everyone of us still lives with the pain and the loss," Crane said.

Crane has been involved in Nishnawbe Aski Nation's Embrace Life conference, now in its 10th year, for several years. But this year she brought 25 of her community members with her to learn how to grieve and hopefully heal.

Presenters, speakers and counsellors are all at the conference, which wraps up Wednesday. Being there makes you realize that spiritually and physically you're never alone Crane said.

"It's a good way to let things go," she said in the basement of St. Paul's United church as a full room sang overhead. "It's a place to come and find answers that you may have been looking for."

It's also a place for people all over NAN territory to overcome suicide, which has taken nearly 500 youth from communities since 1986.

Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakagemic said the conference isn't about assessing blame but communities taking responsibility. Love from a family member or neighbour will go farther than any program can in order to save First Nations youth.

"It's more about what can we do as a community, as family, as friends to turn this around," he said.

The conference also hosts workshops on mentoring youth, enhancing self-image, realizing potential and the importance of education.


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