Attempting Suicide – Where Failure is Success


April 13/17 |
by Rev Gordon Taylor

I recently heard someone say (in a podcast about Syria and Russia and the USA) that “you don’t dialogue with a friend.”  With friends, you go for a meal or a drink and visit. You have a conversation. You talk.  “Dialogue” is what you do in relationships have been damaged.

The Truth and Reconciliation process has invited survivors and families and participants in the residential school system and citizens of Canada into dialogue with each other.  The Commission invited an airing of “truths,” so that the pain experienced may be understood, the broken hearts and lives revealed … and perhaps a new future forged.  Most of these truths we have been hearing in this Lent have been painful … so I deeply appreciate those who have tried to hear these narratives.

We have three more readings to share in this series … not because there are no other stories … but because Lent is nearly over.  I pray readers may find their way to the TRC site and continue to explore the other VOLUMES! of material.

Today, let us listen to how two young indigenous students sought to cope with the bleakness of their circumstances.

Elizabeth Joyce Brass attempted to take her own life at the Dauphin, Manitoba, school in the 1960s.

And I remember one time going downtown with, and this was probably when I was, like they had junior dorm, intermediate dorm, senior dorm, I was in the senior dorm at that time. I must have been about eleven, twelve years old, and I remember, and I don’t even know where this thought came from, but I remember I wanted to go downtown, and I had a plan, I was gonna go steal some Aspirins, which I did. I can’t remember what store it was, and, you know, later on that night I, I took a whole bunch of them, and I remember, you know, going to sleep, and then I remember the next morning, you know, someone waking me up, but I couldn’t hear them, because there was that really loud buzzing in my ears, so I guess that, you know that was, that must have been the way the Aspirin had affected me. And I couldn’t get up, and I could remember the supervisor, you know, telling me, you know, “You’re just not wanting to go to school today,” you know, “You’re just pretending to be sick.” And she sent me off to see the nurse. And on my way I, you know, threw up, and it was all brown, and so I went and seen the nurse on the top floor, and same thing, too, she says, “You need to get to school. There’s nothing wrong with you.” So that was, you know, the first time in my life that I attempted suicide, and, you know, just at a young age.

Antonette White has her own disturbing memories related to suicide. The students at her Kuper Island school were forced to look at a suicide victim.

I remember the one young fellow that hung himself in the gym, and they brought us in there, and showed, showed us, as kids, and they just left him hanging there, and, like, what was that supposed to teach us? You know I’m fifty-five years old, and I still remember that, and that’s one thing out of that school that I remember.

We hear of waves of young Indigenous people taking their own lives.  How are these tragic losses in the present connected to the past?  What are your thoughts?  Has suicide touched your life?  If you wish, share a perspective at UCiM FaceBook page.

“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’ ” Matthew 27: 22-23


The Survivors Speak.  2015. Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  pp. 117-118


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