A Poplar Hill First Nation family is struggling to find answers as to how their 15-year-old daughter was left alone to film her suicide in a Sioux Lookout foster home.
Kanina Sue Turtle died by suicide Oct. 29, 2016 and recorded it on her iPod. She had tried the day before as well, and had several incidents of self-harm in the weeks prior, according to her parents.
But somehow Kanina was left alone in a backroom of a foster home in Sioux Lookout for about 45 minutes before a worker came to check on her.
It was far too late by then.
“Why didn’t she check on her every five minutes?” said Barbara Suggashie, Kanina’s mother, in a telephone interview with APTN News from her home in Poplar Hill near the Ontario/Manitoba border.
APTN was shown the video, which is about an hour long, by the family’s lawyer, who confirmed that on the video the child had bruising consistent with another recent attempt to harm herself.
On the video the worker comes into the room and says what sounds like “Kanina, take my hand.”
She then lays Kanina on the floor, which isn’t visible in the video, and leaves the room. She returns quickly talking on a cellphone with emergency personnel. She also appears to try to resuscitate Kanina by pumping air into her lungs with a plastic device.
But it’s futile. Too much time has passed.
“She’s gone,” the woman says as a baby can be heard crying from another room.
Within minutes sirens are heard and paramedics arrive.
“No pulse,” one of them is heard saying.
Suggashie said she has been trying to find out what happened but said Tikinagan Child and Family Services, the agency that oversaw Kanina’s removal from the home, hasn’t told her much.
“They said she was a suicidal,” said Suggashie.
There are supervision orders that can be made, such as one-to-one care in group homes, meaning a worker is with the child 24-hours a day.
APTN asked Tikinagan if this was the case with Kanina, as there was a second video on her iPod. Kanina had tried to kill herself the day before in the bush. She also had multiple scars from self-harming, according to her family, which doesn’t necessarily mean a person is suicidal, but all the warning signs were there said Suggashie.
“Thank you for reaching out to Tikinagan. We will not be able to respond to your questions by 5 p.m. today,” said spokesperson Irene Dube. “At this time, we are respecting the privacy of the family.”
APTN advised in a follow-up email that both parents were already interviewed, so there was no privacy to disrespect. Tikinagan did not reply to that email.
APTN also tried to get answers from Ontario’s Ministry of Children and Youth Services that was asked about the level of supervision and what, if any, actions were taken against the foster home following the death.
“We take the safety of children and youth in care very seriously. The loss of a young person in our province is a tragedy,” said spokesperson Genevieve Oger. “Our thoughts are with the family, caregivers, and support workers of this young person during this difficult time.”
APTN immediately followed up by email saying the incident happened 16 months ago and the family wanted answers. The Ministry did not reply to that email.
On the video the foster home worker gives the 911 operator the home’s telephone number. APTN called that number Wednesday and reached a woman who said to call Tikinagan and immediately provided its number in Thunder Bay.
APTN explained the family wanted to know why their daughter was left alone but the woman hung up. APTN followed up with text messages but never got a response.
Suggashie can’t help but wonder what’s going on.
“They’re hiding something,” she said. “(Tikinagan) didn’t want to talk to me about it all.”
When APTN first spoke to Suggashie last April she didn’t believe her daughter killed herself, or at least couldn’t bring herself to believe it.
Then a couple months later her husband Clarence Suggashie said the police returned some of Kanina’s belongings, including the iPod. They told him about the video on it and said they weren’t able to see it themselves as they didn’t know the password to the iPod.
Clarence said they were able to figure out the password and finally saw the video for themselves.
He said Barbara never lets the device out of her sight and even sleeps with it.
Barbara said it’s because she believes it tells the truth of what happened, even if she doesn’t know it all yet.
“I’m not going to let go of this … of what really happened,” she said. “I really want to know why she did it.”
She remembers seeing her daughter about a week before she died. She took her shopping and gave Kanina $140 to buy clothes. She ended up buying stuff for her siblings.
Whenever Barbara is in Sioux Lookout she goes by to see the house.
She can’t bring herself to go to the door.
“I only see it from the outside,” she said. “She’s still there.”