A mother’s closure: Inside the foster home where Kanina Sue Turtle died by suicide - APTN NewsAPTN News

A mother’s closure: Inside the foster home where Kanina Sue Turtle died by suicide




Kenneth Jackson and Jared Delorme
APTN News
Barbara Suggashie stands on the spot where her daughter died.

It’s inside a small bedroom in the back of a Sioux Lookout foster home.

“This is where it happened,” says Suggashie, 36.

It’s been many moons since Kanina Sue Turtle, 15, died by suicide on Oct. 29, 2016.

And it’s a foster home Suggashie could never go in – until this week.

“I know she’s listening,” says Suggashie. “I cared about her so much and I miss her a lot.

“I miss her laughs and everything.”

Suggshie walked over 320 kilometres from Red Lake to Sioux Lookout to get here.

She did the walk for many reasons – suicide awareness, for her family, for Kanina and closure.

Suggashie also needed to prove something to her late daughter.

“I’m just really happy with what I did – show her how much I loved her,” she says sitting in the room.

Suggashie invited APTN News to go with her. APTN has been following her daughter’s death for over a year.


Watch APTN’s Jared Delorme interview Barbara Suggashie inside the room:


Kanina had been in the child welfare system for several years. This home is owned and operated by Tikinagan Child and Family Services.

An APTN investigation found Kanina was clearly suicidal, yet left alone for 45 minutes before a Tikinagan worker noticed she was gone.

Kanina filmed her death with her iPod – the same iPod that Suggashie used during her walk to listen to music.

Suggashie says Tikinagan has never told her why Kanina was left alone.

In fact, Suggashie asked Tikinagan again the day before she entered the house when she met with who she believes was Thelma Morris, the executive director of Tikinagan.

“I asked her again why my daughter was left alone for 45 minutes and she said nothing,” says Suggashie, recalling the interaction at her hotel.

It’s a hotel that Tikinagan paid for as it has been covering costs of the walk, yet Suggashie can’t get answers.

APTN uncovered that Kanina had made several attempts at suicide and was in the hospital at least twice for self-harming in the days before her death.

During one hospital visit, Kanina records a Tikinagan worker with her iPod. When Kanina says she’s bored waiting to see a doctor the worker says she should stop cutting herself.

Kanina’s Facebook account also gave many hints of her deteriorating mental state in the days before she died.

“(I don’t know) what to do anymore,” she wrote Oct. 24, 2016. “Just gunna give up on everything.”

A video on her Facebook posted Oct. 27, 2016, that was recorded live, shows the bruised outline of a noose across her neck.

A child that briefly lived in the home with Kanina at the time previously told APTN the bruising was clearly visible.

Then on Oct. 28, a day before her death, she attempted again and also filmed it.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” Kanina says. “I’m sorry for what … umm… I’m going to do.”

The video is just over a minute when she stops recording.

She didn’t say anything in the video of her death. APTN has previously reported Kanina died by hanging.

APTN also reported Tikinagan suspected Kanina was in a so-called suicide pact with other girls. All those girls ended up dying by suicide.

Read: Child welfare agency suspected First Nations girls were planning suicides

The foster home in Sioux Lookout where Kanina Sue Turtle died by suicide Oct. 29, 2016.

Tikinagan operates several foster homes in Sioux Lookout, known as agency operated homes.

The home were Kanina died is still being used to house children taken from their families. Instead of a foster parent, Tikinagan pays someone to act as a “live-in parent” for the children.


Click here for APTN’s investigation: Kanina Sue Turtle


Suggashie had only ever seen the home from the road.

She went inside the home Monday for the first time and again on Tuesday.

“I was kind of scared the first time I came in here,” she says inside the room that has a bed and a dresser. It appears the walls have been painted since Kanina’s death.

There was a ceremony Tuesday inside the home that lasted over an hour.

Suggashie was joined by her four other children who flew in from Poplar Hill First Nation to finish the last leg of the walk.

Kanina wrote in her diary that she wanted to come home but said Tikinagan would always tell her a couple more months. Tikinagan was concerned with alcohol in the home and possible neglect of the children at the time.

All the children live at home with Suggashie.

“She wanted to come home,” says Suggashie. “She wasn’t like this at home – suicidal like that.”

Barbara Suggashie with her son, Winter, who walked with his mother to Sioux Lookout. Submitted photo.

Suggashie and her kids returned home Tuesday afternoon with closure but still no answers to so many questions.

APTN has put questions to Tikinagan but it either doesn’t respond or a spokesperson has said it must respect the privacy of the family.

Suggashie’s last remaining hope is now with the chief coroner of Ontario who is reviewing Kanina’s death, along with 10 other children who died while in child protective services. Seven of the children are Indigenous.

The review was sparked after the coroner found issues in each of the deaths ranging from lack of proper care to untrained foster home staff.

That review is expected to be completed and released to the public sometime this summer.

kjackson@aptn.ca

@afixedaddress

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