(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)
When Barbara Suggashie first saw the video of her daughter’s suicide she only watched the first few minutes.
Then she shut it off.
She wanted to see if her daughter said goodbye.
“But she never said anything,” said Suggashie.
Kanina Sue Turtle was 15 when she died Oct. 29, 2016.
That’s nearly 730 days ago and Suggashie, like any parent, has often wondered what her daughter was thinking at the time.
Kanina did have something to say to her family.
She wrote letters to them.
But no one told the family.
“No one said anything,” said Suggashie on the telephone over the weekend from her home in Poplar Hill near the Ontario and Manitoba border.
Not the Ontario Provincial Police that investigated Kanina’s death in Sioux Lookout, Ont.
Not Tikinagan Child and Family Services that owned and operated the foster home, and who took Kanina from her parents 10 times throughout her life for safety concerns.
And not the Ontario coroner’s office.
The family didn’t learn of Kanina’s last words until last month.
That’s when a report, commissioned by Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer, was released on the deaths of 12 kids in child protective services between 2014 and 2017.
It’s 86 pages looking at systemic issues that are failing the most vulnerable children in the province. Each of the 12 children had about one page each dedicated to them.
In Kanina’s section there is a line that Suggashie hasn’t been able to forget: “Suicide notes were left for various family members…”
It came as a shock.
Why hadn’t anyone told her?
But then again Suggashie was used to things being kept from her after her daughter’s death.
For instance, the actual video of Kanina’s suicide was kept from the family for about nine months.
During that time Suggashie didn’t believe it was suicide.
Then police returned Kanina’s iPod in the summer of 2017 right around the same time the family’s access to information request for Kanina’s police report, and officer’s notes, arrived.
Kanina filmed her death on the device and police officer notes mention the video. It’s about an hour and has been reviewed by APTN, as previously reported.
The video shows Kanina was left alone for 45 minutes before the a worker in the home checked on her.
It was far too late by then as she had been motionless for approximately 40 minutes.
Suggashie said she has asked Tikinagan why her daughter was left alone when the agency knew she was suicidal and had been in the hospital multiple times in the days before her death for self-harming.
When the investigating coroner did the autopsy hundreds of new cuts were all over her body.
“I don’t understand Tikinagan. They are hiding something,” she has said over and over since APTN first broke the news of the video Feb. 28.
She also never had the coroner’s death investigation report until late this summer when the family hired a lawyer to find out what happened. The lawyer, Cara Valiquette based in Bracebridge, Ont., was able to get some of Kanina’s records, including her counsellor notes.
Those records show Kanina missed every appointment with her counsellor in the five days before her death. Her counsellor, Violet Tuesday in Sioux Lookout, also noted she had difficulty reaching Tikinagan during those five days.
The death investigation report was completed by regional coroner, Michael Wilson, over a year after Kanina’s death because no one had had done it by then, as Wilson mentions. Wilson also says in the report it does not appear anything could have stopped Kanina from killing herself.
Wilson was also involved much earlier in the investigation into Kanina’s death. Immediately after her death, the OPP asked the coroner’s office to pay for specialized software that would allow the police to remove the video from Kanina’s iPod and keep as evidence, as the device had timed out and locked police out.
Wilson wouldn’t pay the costs and said the family could if they wanted the device back. Kanina’s family would guess her password to get into the phone after police returned it.
APTN contacted Huyer by email Monday asking who has Kanina’s suicide letters.
“I am away from the office for two days so I am not able to answer until later this week as I have to check with others,” wrote Huyer Monday night. “I would be happy to respond to the family with any questions they have.”
Huyer was in Sioux Lookout for a media conference over the cold case involving Audrey Anderson. That’s also where Tikinagan’s headquarters is located.
He emailed again Tuesday evening saying he has made several inquires to find out about the letters.
“You and the family have raised a question to me which I will make best efforts to find the answers in as timely a manner that I can,” he said. “As you are aware I do not have direct knowledge of all investigations (17,000) in the province each year. I was not the investigating coroner in this case.”
Tikinagan declined to comment when asked why the letters have been kept from the family or when they will be delivered.
“Tikinagan will not be commenting on any matter relating to Kanina Turtle, as there is litigation before the Courts,” said Tikinagan’s lawyer, Catherine Beamish.
Kanina’s family sued Tikinagan for $5.9 million over her death last month.
After learning of the letters Suggashie and her husband, Clarence Suggashie, said they asked Tikinagan for the letters but never got a response.
“They didn’t say anything,” said Clarence.
He said he now goes to the Northern Store asking if they have mail hoping the letters are there.
They are hoping it’s just a mistake someone will correct.
“Every day we check the mail,” said Clarence. “Nothing.”