Hours before Kanina Sue Turtle, 15, killed herself in a Sioux Lookout foster home the police were trying to find her.
Kanina had been out all night with her girlfriend, Jolynn Winter, 12.
It was the last night they spent together.
Kanina would die later that day on Oct. 29, 2016 after police did track her down and brought her back to the foster home.
A couple months later Winter also died by suicide.
Both were in the care of Tikinagan Child and Family Services.
This new information comes from Tikinagan’s statement of defence recently filed in Kanina’s family’s $5.9 million lawsuit against the Indigenous child welfare agency operating in northern Ontario.
Tikinagan denies any wrongdoing in the death.
It’s also the first time Tikinagan has said anything about Kanina’s death. APTN News first reported in February 2018 that the Poplar Hill First Nation teen filmed her suicide with her iPod.
Thirteen more stories would follow before November.
APTN’s investigation would uncover in part multiple hospital visits before her death, missed appointments with her counsellor, the home was owned and operated by Tikinagan, that she had also filmed an attempted suicide Oct. 28, 2016 and she had written suicide letters to her family but Tikinagan wouldn’t hand them over for almost two years, or tell the family they existed.
APTN also reported Tikinagan suspected Kanina was planning her suicide with other girls, which it now denies in the statement of defence.
“On October 29, 2016 Kanina committed suicide. Tikinagan subsequently learned from a peer disclosure that Kanina had entered into a suicide pact with several other youths,” Tikinagan alleges.
However, in this in-depth story, APTN lays out how Tikinagan knew Kanina and other girls were planning their suicides.
And more so in this follow up story based on documents from Kanina’s counsellor obtained by APTN.
The counsellor detailed a conversation she had with a Tikinagan worker two days before Kanina’s death.
Kanina had been caught kissing Jolynn and the worker said both were “suicidal together” according to the documents.
The next day Kanina wouldn’t return for curfew at 9 p.m. and spent the night with Jolynn until both were found the next morning.
Just before 6 p.m. that day Kanina was dead in her foster room.
Tikinagan says in its statement of defence she was left alone for just over a half hour.
“Her foster mother left Kanina’s bedroom to prepare her something to eat and was absent a little more than 30 minutes,” the statement alleges. “When the foster mother returned to Kanina’s bedroom, she discovered that Kanina had used her own shoelace to commit suicide.”
But the video clearly shows otherwise.
From the moment Kanina starts recording and until the worker comes to check on her Kanina was left alone for at least 46 minutes and 20 seconds.
Tikinagan has never seen the video.
APTN asked Tikinagan’s lawyer how they determined Kanina was left alone for “a little more than 30 minutes.”
“We will not comment on the unfortunate death of Ms. Turtle as it is the subject of litigation before the Court and we trust our legal process to address this matter,” said Giovanna Asaro, a partner with Blaney McMurtry in Toronto.
Also, the police report on Kanina’s death says Kanina was lifeless for more than 40 minutes.
Kanina’s family has always questioned why she wasn’t under 24-hour watch based on her mental state.
The statement of defence also talks about Kanina being taken to the Sioux Lookout hospital for self-harming on Oct. 24, 2016.
“Kanina refused to voluntarily see a physician or counsellor. The on-call physician determined that Kanina could not be involuntarily admitted to hospital at that juncture, but such an admission would be considered if Kanina did not respond to counselling,” Tikinagan alleges.
As APTN has reported, Kanina missed every appointment for the next five days until she died. Her counsellor’s notes details difficulty in reaching Tikinagan to find out why she was missing appointments.
When the coroner examined Kanina’s body she hundreds of new cuts all over her limbs.
The coroner also reported that it was known she was “chronically suicidal”.
Kanina’s death was part of a chief coroner of Ontario’s review of 12 deaths in child protective services that was released last September.
Eight of the children were Indigneous and six were from Nishinawbe Aski Nation territory as first reproted by APTN’s Willow Fiddler. Tikinagan is NAN’s child welfare agency.
The report found each death was a result of a complete failure of the system.
It also said four months before Kanina died she was placed in a youth treatment centre on Cat Lake operated by Tikinagan. It’s where she met Jolynn, who filmed herself attempting to die by suicide at the centre just days before Kanina died. The video was found on Kanina’s iPod. Jolynn can be heard screaming and crying from a room with another young girl.
Kanina had to be “medically evacuated” twice for self-harming and suicide attempts. The last one was why she was in Sioux Lookout when she died.
Kanina was in and out of child protective services throughout her life based on allegations of domestic and alcohol abuse in the home. She was regularly removed from her home through customary care agreements. Her family allege they never had advice of a lawyer when they signed these agreements that could have been challenged in court.
When she died Kanina hadn’t been attending school but it’s unclear why or for how long.
But when she was younger Kanina enjoyed school.
Her favourite subjects were math and science.