There are more Indigenous kids in the child welfare system today than at the height of residential schools. But no one knows exactly how high the number goes, as not all jurisdictions keep data on the number of kids in care, and while the Trudeau government claims child welfare is a leading cause of suicides among Indigenous youth APTN uncovered not all Indigenous children suicides are classified as such.
The federal government also does little to track data on suicide rates across the country.
Meanwhile, families continue to fight a broken system that shuts them out like in the suicide of Kanina Sue Turtle. The 15-year-old left goodbye letters but they were kept from her family for over two years, much like the video of her suicide was for nine months.
APTN reporters Martha Troian and Kenneth Jackson dug into the child welfare crisis throughout 2018 showing a direct connection between the suicide crisis and child welfare. Then in December, the Trudeau government announced plans to intruduce Indigenous child welfare legislation in January 2019.
Kanina Sue Turtle
A Poplar Hill First Nation family is struggling to find answers as to how their 15-year-old daughter was left alone to film her suicide in a Sioux Lookout foster home.
Soon after learning Kanina Sue Turtle filmed her suicide inside a foster home, APTN uncovered that the home was owned and operated by the child welfare agency that removed her from her home in Poplar Hill First Nation.
When Kanina Sue Turtle last visited her First Nation she told her mother she had met someone in Sioux Lookout. It was a girl and they were close.
Kanina’s mother decided it was time to visit the foster home and say goodbye to her daughter.
Almost two years after Kanina died her family filed a lawsuit against Tikinagan Child and Family Services alleging her death could have been prevented.
Kanina missed every appointment with her counsellor in the five days leading up to her death. The regional coroner would say a year later it didn’t appear anything could have saved her.
When Barbara Suggashie first saw the video of her daughter’s suicide she only watched the first few minutes. She wanted to see if her daughter said goodbye.
Brian Rae remembers his nephew, Dario Strang, as someone who was smart and did well in school. Rae thought Strang had a bright future ahead of him.
When children under the age of 10 die by suicide in Ontario, their deaths are likely to be deemed an accident or as “undetermined” by the provincial coroner’s office.
Millions of dollars are spent every year to fight suicide epidemics amongst Indigenous peoples in Canada but the federal government collects little to no data about the actual suicide rates.
For decades, it’s been called an epidemic. Suicides in Indigenous communities. Yet we actually don’t know the exact number of how many have died. APTN Investigates reporter, Martha Troian searched for those answers.
A Broken System
The 49 children’s aid societies in Ontario were supposed to start collecting race-based data as of Feb. 5, 2018 in part to determine the number of Indigenous kids taken from their homes.
When the Ontario government passed new legislation on child welfare last year it required that the province’s 49 children’s aid societies start collecting race-based data for the first time. Just not report it.
The family of Kanina Sue Turtle has been waiting almost two years for answers into her suicide and feel a report released in September into the death didn’t change that.
There were at least seven investigations that verified child protection concerns into a company operating three foster homes in Thunder Bay before the Ontario government shut them down in the weeks following the death of Tammy Keeash in May 2017.
When her son started talking about suicide while living in a group home this mother decided she needed to do something. Emails between her and the child welfare agency show she pushed to get him help while being kept at a distance. Then during an unsupervised visit in April she didn’t return him to his group home. She just kept her son at home.