(Kanina Sue Turtle, middle, with father Clarence Suggashie and mother Barbara Suggashie visiting Poplar Hill First Nation for a funeral Oct. 18, 2016. She died by suicide Oct. 29, 2016. Photo provided by family.)
The foster home where Kanina Sue Turtle filmed her suicide is owned and operated by the child welfare agency that removed her from her home in Poplar Hill First Nation, APTN News has found.
The Sioux Lookout home is known as an “agency operated home” (AOH) and is owned by Tikinagan Child and Family Services according to land registry records obtained by APTN.
Records show Tikinagan has owned the home since 2005 when it was transferred from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for $132,000.
Turtle filmed her suicide in a backroom of the home Oct. 29, 2016 but APTN first reported Feb. 28 that the family is struggling for answers to this day as how she was able to do so.
Turtle had been to hospital at least twice in the nine days before her death for self-harming according to posts on her Facebook page and mother. She also filmed trying to kill herself the day before which APTN has seen.
The Oct. 29 video, which has also been seen by APTN, shows Turtle propping up her iPod and hanging herself. It’s about 45 minutes before a Tikinagan worker abruptly comes through the door to check on her. It’s far too late by then and a baby can be heard crying in another room.
Turtle’s mom said she has no idea how well her daughter was being supervised because Tikinagan never told her.
“Tik never told me anything at all,” said Barbara Suggashie, adding they only told her she died by suicide.
For months she didn’t believe it until she saw the video herself.
Suggashie said she didn’t find out about the video until months later when she said police returned Turtle’s belongings, including the iPod, last summer. Turtle’s father told APTN police said they were unable to access the device but advised the family of the video’s existence. The family later determined the device’s passcode and saw the video.
The unidentified Tikingan worker realized the iPod was recording at about the 50-minute mark of the video as she was on the phone with 911.
APTN reported Monday Tikinagan has been trying to get the video from the mother, according to the family’s lawyer.
Tikinagan will not answer whether they had additional staff on to watch Turtle.
Watch below as NDP demands answers for Kanina’s family Tuesday:
The Ontario NDP put more questions to the Kathleen Wynne government Tuesday seeking answers for the family of Kanina Sue Turtle following a series of APTN stories that detail how the 15-year-old filmed her own suicide in a Sioux Lookout foster home Oct. 29, 2016. The exchange got a bit heated.
Posted by APTN National News on Tuesday, March 6, 2018
In an interview last summer Thelma Morris, executive director of Tikinagan, told APTN the agency automatically approves what’s known as one-to-one care, meaning a worker monitors the child around the clock, in homes operated by other companies.
“If there is a need to have a one-to-one we approve automatically,” Morris said last May. “That is written into our agreements.”
It’s not clear what their policy is for one of their own homes, which is different from regular foster homes where a family takes in a child.
Tikinagan’s website describes how the majority of the agency’s AOH’s are in Sioux Lookout and has employees who act as “live-in parents.”
When APTN called the home a lady immediately gave the number of Tikinagan’s office in Thunder Bay and hung up. That number has since been disconnected.
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services has refused to talk about anything specific to Turtle’s death saying it is bound by privacy.
APTN also asked for more details on AOH’s and waited several days for a response.
A spokesperson for Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau responded late Sunday.
“An agency operated home is not a designation under our legislation, though some in the community might have considered it as such due to its relationship with a licensed foster agency,” said spokesperson Alicia Ali.
APTN quickly asked for clarification and sent a screenshot of Tikinagan’s website that details how the agency not only operates homes but is hiring. Tikinagan gets its authority from the ministry.
Ali responded Monday that she didn’t know and would need to refer APTN back to the ministry.
“Agency operated homes is not an official term under the current legislation. Some children’s aid societies use the term informally to describe their residential placements. The ministry licenses service providers, such as children’s aid societies, to deliver residential services. Licensed service providers are responsible for operating in compliance with the requirements of the Child and Family Services Act,” said Trell Huether, a spokesperson for the ministry said Tuesday.
Turtle posted a Facebook live video from a hospital room beside who appears to be a Tikinagan worker before her death.
The unidentified woman talks on a mobile phone explaining to someone she is at the hospital with Turtle and how her shift is ending soon.
Turtle begins the video by showing her injuries and says very little, other than she is bored.
The worker agrees it is boring and notices there is no television to watch.
“So quit cutting yourself so you don’t have to come here,” the woman says on Oct. 25, 2016.
Turtle died by suicide four days later.