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Outside The Bubble

International News for the week of Nov 12.

2018 U.S. Midterm Elections

On November 6, Americans participated in midterm elections, voting in senators, house representatives, and governors. Early estimates say that over 113 million people voted in the midterms, with an incredible surge of young people and women. This election is believed to be a referendum on President Trump and how the public feels about his government. After two years of Republican rule, Democrats gained control of the House, winning 31 additional seats to secure a majority (some races are still undetermined).

The 2018 midterms saw many historical victories across the country. More than 100 women were elected: 95 in the House of Representatives and 12 in the Senate, among them were a record 42 women of colour. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) both became the youngest women ever to be elected to Congress at the age of 29. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), became the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, as well as becoming the first Somali-American congresswoman and Palestinian-American congresswoman, respectively. Breaking ground for Native Americans, Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (DNM) became the first Native American women elected to Congress, 56 years after Native Americans were granted the right to vote. Additionally, more than 100 LGBTQ candidates won races at the federal, state, and local levels. Jared Polis, Chris Pappas, Tammy Baldwin, Jennifer Web, and the aforementioned Sharice Davids are all the first openly LGBTQ identifying candidates to be elected in their respective states.

Suicide Crisis in Nunavik

Content warning: suicide

So far in 2018, 15 youths have taken their own lives in Nunavik, the subarctic region of Quebec. This suicide crisis is affecting an area with a population of 12,000, 90 per cent of whom are Inuit. In October alone, two people took their lives in Kuujjuaq, a town of 3,000. In response, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq (Nunavik’s school board) organized an emergency meeting from October 30-31 to “plot out a course of action.” Seventy people from various Nunavik organizations attended, as did a delegation from the Quebec government.

Robert Watt, president of the Kativik council of school commissioners, addressed the crisis in a letter to government officials: “over the past four weeks, our communities have dealt with youth suicides that directly affected students, families and staff in Nunavik.” Watt also wrote, “one of the victims was as young as 11 years old. We feel the situation requires urgent collective action at the regional level.”

Tunu Napartuk, the mayor of Kuujjuaq, opened the meeting calling for immediate action: “we are talking about the same thing from ten years ago, we keep passing the buck. We need to break this wall, during today and tomorrow, how can we start breaking the wall?”

In a press release, Quebec’s new government stated that they are “concerned about this situation, and wishes to support Indigenous communities.” It is also stated that “the ministries concerned will […] be advised of the measures to be taken.” While the Quebec government sent a delegation to the emergency meeting and has announced a Public Inquiry Commission on relations between “Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec,” they have not yet announced any concrete actions or policy. Due to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, health care services are under provincial jurisdiction. Mary Simon, Kuujjuaq native and former ambassador to Denmark, lost her 22 year-old niece to suicide this year. In a public post on Facebook, she wrote, “we desperately need ongoing mental health support and services in every Inuit community.” She and others have emphasized the lack of physical and mental health services for Inuit communities. Simon pointed out that she had made a previous plea for government aid in the crisis two years ago in a report, yet did not receive the support requested. “I am making this plea again and others should do likewise,” she said.

This phenomenon is not limited to Nunavik. Statistics show that First Nations youths are five to six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youths. In the case of Inuit youth, the rates are eleven times the national average. The suicide crisis in Nunavik is also reminiscent of the 2015- 2016 crises in First Nations in Manitoba and Northern Ontario.

Mass Emigration in Venezuela

According to a United Nations report published on November 1, three million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, one in 12 people of the country’s population. The increase of people leaving Venezuela is a result of political and economic crises, including an increase in violence, hyperinflation, and lack of food and medicine. The crisis has been ongoing since 2015; however, conditions have worsened in the last six months, forcing elevated more people to flee. In August 2018, the United Nations declared it one of the largest mass migrations in Latin American history.

2.4 million migrants have relocated to, or sought refuge in, other Latin American countries or other parts of the world. Over one million migrants have fled to Colombia, which shares a border with Venezuela, with 3,000 new migrants arriving every day. Peru has received over half a million Venezuelans thus far, with Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil also taking in a substantial number of migrants.

Under the current president, Nicolás Maduro, economic and political conditions have worsened after oil prices started falling in 2014. Previous to the price drop, Venezuela earned 96 per cent of its revenue from oil. Maduro has called the migration crisis “fake news” created to justify interference on an international scale.

The World Bank warns that other Latin American countries should expect more migrants in the near future, as political change in the country cannot be expected soon. While neighbouring countries have taken in large numbers of migrants, the situation warrants “a more robust and immediate response from the international community,” according to Edward Stein, the Joint Special Representative for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration (UNHCR-IOM).