WINNIPEG — Idle No More protesters staged a blockade on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Winnipeg on Friday afternoon to draw attention to the suicide crisis among indigenous youth.
Some beat on drums and others sang while papers were handed to drivers outlining their concerns.
The activists said the peaceful protest consisted of asking drivers to slow down and hear their message.
They were also asked to sign a petition calling on the federal government to increase the availability of health services on First Nations.
One woman carried a sign reading: "We demand mental health services on reserves."
Vin Clarke, of the Urban Warrior Alliance, said they wanted to bring awareness to the suicide crisis, to living conditions on First Nations, to the impact of colonization, and to the loss of culture.
Carolyn McKay now lives in Winnipeg but is originally from northern Ontario and said many reserves have third-world living conditions.
"People have to become aware that there's some communities that don't have running water, plumbing, hydro, all of that," she said. "And it's affecting our young people."
Aquilla Pelletier said she has struggled with addictions herself and wants to educate others "to know how to deal with it in healthier ways, and that there is people that love them and care about them."
Some drivers refused to roll down their windows for the protesters but others took it in stride.
"I have two little kids in the back. They're upset and they want to go, they don't understand and they're scared," said one woman. "So we just said these people have some problems and they want to tell people about it."