Content warning: This story addresses suicide and sexual abuse in the child welfare system.
Both have been in government care most of their lives.
Both have harrowing stories of sexual abuse.
Both ended up in Ottawa group homes hundreds of kilometres from their First Nations in northwestern Ontario.
And both have something to say to the Justin Trudeaus and Andrew Scheers of the world looking to deny them compensation awarded by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
“I want to tell them that they need to stop living up their asses,” says the 19-year-old woman, who APTN News is calling Mariah for this story.
APTN can’t legally identify her because she continues to receive funding, like housing and clothing allowances, from an Indigenous child welfare agency in northwestern Ontario.
It’s known as extended care, which will end when she turns 21.
The Canadian government is asking the Federal court to dismiss the tribunal’s order to pay every First Nations child put in care $40,000 after Canada was found to be wilfully under-funding on-reserve child welfare.
Trudeau has said the Liberals believe the survivors should be compensated, but critics have questioned why the federal government is seeking to have the tribunal’s order dismissed.
Scheer, leader of the Conservatives, has said several times he wants the tribunal’s order judicially reviewed.
“Simply put it’s bull-crap,” says Jason, who APTN also can’t identify. “If you’re saying someone, who has been through a lifetime of rape, physical abuse and just constant beatings, that they don’t deserve $40,000? It’s ridiculous.”
Jason, 20, is in a similar situation as Mariah, but his extended care runs out in March 2020.
APTN first met Jason back in 2017 when he was sleeping in a stairwell of the Rideau Centre, a downtown Ottawa shopping mall.
Watch Jason’s full interview:
Soon after turning 18, staff at his group home dropped him, and his few possessions, off at the Mission, a downtown shelter which was confirmed during a previous interview with his former case worker at Weechi-it-te-win Family Services.
“I gave him a heads up about what was going to be happening when he turned 18 and Mary Homes (group home) gave him a heads up on that, (too),” Andrew Letander said, in the May 6, 2017 APTN article, Ojibway teen sleeping in Ottawa mall stairwell after aging out of group home.
Jason’s parents died when he was young — his mom from suicide and his dad of cancer.
“He’s been bounced around from group home to group home all his life,” Letander said. “I am worried about him.”
Ottawa’s Indigenous community found him in the stairwell and reacted fast in providing him proper shelter and food.
He would bounce around a bit before obtaining assisted housing for young people. He says he was kicked out of there because he had a cat and there was a strict no-pets policy.
He currently lives with his girlfriend in the west end of Ottawa.
“The last time I ever seen my worker, physically, was probably just before I got dropped off at the Mission when he asked me if I wanted to move back to the rez,” says Jason.
Life in group homes had twisted his sense of “normal”.
“When you are in a group home or treatment centre most of your life you don’t know what to expect from reality, from society in general. The majority of time, group home kids think the problem is society and not us, because we don’t know what normal is,” he says.
Jason first bounced around in northwestern Ontario before arriving in Ottawa.
“When I was six, a year after my mom passed, I was sexually assaulted for at least three to four months and I moved from that place to Kenora. After that it just started getting worse and I ended up setting my place on fire and having to move again and again, really just because I didn’t like the situation I was in anymore,” he says.
“I didn’t trust anyone, so I didn’t want to stay.”
He is struggling with anxiety and finds smoking marijuana helps, but his girlfriend is trying to help him get his health card to “get meds” to help treat it.
He’s also reflecting on his past and has become more self-aware in the hopes of healing. He also wants to go back to school and get a regular job.
The normal things.
After fighting his way through care, he’s now fighting for his future.
“I’m just going to try and do my best to make my future work,” he says.
Mariah knows what it means to fight.
She’s had to battle through some horrific trauma while bouncing around in Ontario’s child welfare system.
She says it started when she was two-weeks-old and her mom, about 15-years-old at the time, left her in a hotel room to go “party”.
A family member found her after hearing her 14-day-old cries.
“I could have been dead right now, but my auntie went to check on me and she heard me crying,” says Mariah, adding her mother was also raised in the child welfare system.
She says an agency paid her grandmother to care for her for several years before she ended up first in foster care in the Kenora area, as well as Thunder Bay.
It was in these places she faced her most severe abuse.
She told APTN a childhood memory of propping a chair up against the door to her bedroom at a foster home and actually nailing it to the floor to keep the foster parent’s grandson from coming in her room.
She was nine.
Watch Mariah’s full interview:
“It was traumatizing. I was scared. I was a child,” she says.
But she kept him out.
Then she started running away like a lot of kids in care do.
“There is a reason. We don’t do it because we are bored. We are angry at them,” she says. “I ran away because I just didn’t want to deal with that.”
She would find predators on the streets, or maybe they found her.
“I should have died at least three times,” she says.
Then a couple years later she ended up in a group home in Prescott, Ont., before moving to an Ottawa group home.
It was there she lived with Amy Owen, a 13-year-old girl from Poplar Hill First Nation who died by suicide in the room above Mariah’s in the east end of Ottawa on April 16, 2017.
Jason also knew Owen a couple months before she died. He pulled her off a busy Ottawa street where she was running into oncoming traffic.
Both of these young adults have stared death in the face while their friends died around them.
Now they want Trudeau, and Canada, to hear their stories.
“They can get anything they want with a snap of a finger,” says Mariah.
She just wants an apartment.
Not just for her, but also her young son she had at 16.
The Canada Suicide Prevention Service enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support using the technology of their choice (phone, text or chat), in French or English:
Phone: toll-free 1-833-456-4566