(Barbara Suggashie, left, and her husband Clarence Suggashie hold the picture of their deceased daughter Kanina Sue Turtle who died by suicide Oct. 29, 2016. APTN file photo)
The family of Kanina Sue Turtle is suing Tikinagan Child and Family Services for $5.9 million after the 15-year-old died by suicide inside a Sioux Lookout foster home the agency owned and operated in October 2016.
The lawsuit alleges Kanina’s death was preventable and the result of Tikinagan’s “reckless disregard” for her wellbeing.
“The Defendants conduct caused Kanina to experience severe mental suffering and injury and ultimately a wrongful death,” the claim alleges.
The lawsuit was filed in a Bracebridge, Ont. courthouse Thursday by lawyer Cara Valiquette from Falls Law Group.
The claim details much of what APTN News has already published since February.
Kanina had been in and out the child welfare system for several years.
She filmed her death inside the Tikinagan home that was still being used this past summer by the agency.
An APTN investigation found Kanina was clearly suicidal, yet left alone for 45 minutes before a Tikinagan worker noticed she was gone.
“(Tikinagan) failed to adequately monitor Kanina,” the claim alleges. “Its employees or agents had no or improper training, qualifications, education and experience to supervise and/or assist Indigenous children suffering from mental health issues, including Kanina.”
APTN has viewed the video and previously reported a worker comes into the room and says what sounds like “Kanina, take my hand.”
She then laid Kanina’s lifeless body on the floor, which isn’t visible in the video and leaves the room. She returned quickly talking on a cellphone with emergency personnel. She also appeared to try to resuscitate Kanina by pumping air into her lungs with a plastic device.
But it was futile. Too much time had passed.
“She’s gone,” the woman said 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.
Her parents, Barabara and Clarence Suggashie, told APTN they filed the lawsuit to get answers, as they have never been told why Kanina was left alone the day she died.
“Every day we miss her, every day we go through sadness, especially because of the video she left behind,” said Clarence. “ She had dreams about her future, and positive goals. She thought about being a police officer.”
He said Kanina just wanted to come home. The family didn’t know Kanina filmed her suicide until at least six months after her death. Police returned the iPod and the family guessed the password. The lawsuit alleges no one told them the video was on there.
Several days before Kanina killed herself, she was in the hospital for self-harming according to a video she posted on her Facebook account.
It’s a recording of a live video where Kanina filmed what appears to be a Tikinagan worker sitting in a chair in the hospital room as they wait to be seen by a doctor.
The unidentified woman talks on a mobile phone explaining to someone she is at the hospital with Kanina 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 the video.
Kanina then turns the camera to the woman who is looking down at her phone.
“(Tikinagan) created a situation of trust and an illusion of safety which the Plaintiffs relied on, and given Kanina’s mental health issues, this trust prevented the Plaintiffs from being able to appreciate the risks of death which may be encountered when Indigenous children are residing in the care of Tikinagan,” the claim alleges.
Kanina’s Facebook account gave many hints of her deteriorating mental state in the days leading up to her death.
“(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.
“(Tikinagan) failed to have in place emergency medical procedures and protocols when it suspected, or ought to have suspected, that a child in its group home would attempt to inflect harm on herself,” the claim alleges.
Then on Oct. 28, a day before her death, she attempted again and also filmed that.
APTN has viewed that video.
“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.
“Kanina had been receiving limited counselling in the days leading up to her death, which did not adequately address her needs,” the claim alleges.
Tikinagan didn’t immediately respond to APTN when provided an opportunity to address the lawsuit.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Kanina is buried on Poplar Hill First Nation near the Manitoba and Ontario border.