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For 50 years, wrestlers have travelled through rural Manitoba on Tony Condello’s Northern wrestling tours. The tour visits remote Indigenous communities in Northern Manitoba that are only connected by ice road a few weeks of each Winter. The Tour has been dubbed ‘The Death Tour’ both for the physical hardships endured on the road and the emotional toll it takes on those who experience it.

While filming  “The Death Tour” documentary in the Winter of 2023, the communities we visited were impacted by the loss of several of their community members - including youth who had taken their own lives.  Systempic racism, isolation, generational trauma, and limited access to essential resources all contribute to death and suicide rates among the Indigenous population that triples the national average - it’s even higher in many isolated Northern communities. The Death Tour is one of the few major entertainment events to travel to a handful of these towns each winter. While filming, some of the wrestlers told us that the tour should be called ‘The Life Tour’ not only because the trip gives Southerners a taste of what life is really like on many Indigenous reservations across Canada, but because the events themselves feel like a cathartic celebration of life and shared passion that both the communities and wrestlers anticipate year-round.

Unfortunately so much more help is needed to tackle the heartbreaking reality of youth suicide in Indigenous communities. As of 2021, there were close to 2 million Indigenous people living across Canada. Not only are they the youngest population in the country, (44% under the age of 25) they are also the fastest growing. Indigenous communities in Canada have some of the highest suicide rates in the world. Suicide rates across First Nations communities are on average 3 times the national rate.  That number climbs to up to 10 times the average in some Northern Inuit communities. The geographical distance and the isolation of the North make it difficult and expensive to access health and mental-health services that are easily available in the South. Access to these services must be available in a culturally safe way and they should be available for all ages.

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Co-Director's Statement
Sonya Ballantyne

I was suicidal when I was growing up on my reserve because it was very easy to fall into the trap that the only world that exists is the one that makes up the reserve. When you hear incredibly racist things from birth about your people, you begin to internalize it. Hope is hard to maintain when it seems to be a trait that goes against everything you see in your world. Hope in times of darkness is very punk rock and I think wrestling reminds us of that. Everyone loves an underdog story and Indigenous people have often been forced into the underdog role. 


The veteran pro wrestlers on the tour warned us that the communities would shut down when someone passed away. There were about 4 days where we didn’t leave the God’s River school because every place we were heading to, or could head to, had someone pass away. We became friends with a local woman and I was touched when she told me that the community shut down for one of their members who passed away in her new home. It felt like it brought the community together as they mourned together even at a distance.

The geographical distance and the isolation of the North make it difficult and expensive to access services that are easily available in the South. Access to these services must be available in a culturally safe way and they should be available for all ages, not just the younger community members. Our Elders need to heal too. 


The systematic racism Indigenous people face that prevents access to this care needs to end. Access to mental health care should not be a lottery based on one's location.

Director's Statement
Stephan Peterson

I had heard about Northern communities declaring states of emergency due to a suicide epidemic, but when I was travelling through towns that were experiencing this, it was deeply upsetting. It’s one thing to read about it on the news, but it’s another to engage and connect with the local youth for weeks and then experience it. You could feel a mix of heaviness in the communities but also a devastating sense of familiarity, these weren’t totally uncommon isolated events.  It impacted everyone on the tour. Some of us were experiencing it for the first time, others, who’d lived on reservations elsewhere had sadly experienced it before. Either way, it was devastating.

In the film, Sage explains that the interconnectedness of these communities is one of the unique and wonderful aspects of her culture, but it can also create devastating ripples of trauma when somebody passes away or is hurt.

Educating ourselves is essential. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission have clearly laid out 94 actions that could - and need -  to be done in order for these communities to begin healing. In parallel to that, there are a number of wonderful organizations and charities that support Indigenous youth programs where you can make donations in order to help.


Listen and Learn

Listen to and educate yourself about the Indigenous communities near you. 

Unreserved is the radio space for Indigenous voices – our cousins, our aunties, our elders, our heroes.

The Secret Life of Canada is a podcast that highlights the people, places and stories that probably didn't make it into your high school textbook.


Read the 94 Calls to Action recommended by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission addressing Canada’s history of colonialism and recommending policy changes. 


Below are a few programs you can support that are doing wonderful work with and for the communities in Manitoba, where the documentary takes place.

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Klinic - Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services

The Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services (MFRNSS) provides telephone and on-line counselling to farmers, rural and Northern Manitobans. We also offer public education, a volunteer training program, and a monthly Suicide Bereavement Support group. The MFRNSS houses a Rural Mental Health Resource Centre with books, videos and articles related to rural, Northern, indigenous, and agricultural mental health. The MFRNSS is a program of Klinic Community Health.

For more information about the MFRNSS or to make a donation, visit

Klinic Website :

Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services Website :


There is no wrong way to ask for help.
If you or someone you care about is struggling, we are here for you.

Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services Line (24/7)

Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7)

Klinic Crisis Line (24/7)

9-8-8 National Suicide Helpline

Toll-free: 1-866-367-3276

Toll-free: 1-877-435-7170

Call or text 9-8-8

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