Kanina Sue Turtle wrote down on paper what she could never say to her mother and father.
She was sorry.
“I will always love you guys don’t forget that,” Kanina wrote. “I’m about to say goodbye.”
Kanina, 15, couldn’t take it anymore.
She had enough of living in foster care.
And she was tired of seeing her friends dying.
“I know you guys wanted me to grow up happy but I (am) not. I just hate people killing their self,” she wrote in a letter dated Oct. 19, 2016, which was also addressed to her four younger brothers.
“That’s all I want I want to say to u guys.
Ten days later she took her life in a back room of a Sioux Lookout foster home owned and operated by Tikinagan Child and Family Services.
The letter would go in her file at Tikinagan and not to her family.
It was kept from the family for nearly two years.
They’d several more weeks until they got to read it – a photo copy of the original – following an APTN News story about the letter’s existence.
“I don’t know how to explain it but I know she knew I loved her so much,” said Kanina’s mother, Barbara Suggashie of what it was like to finally read the letter.
“I don’t know why they kept (it) from me.”
‘Kanina, take my hand’
It’s hard for Barbara to say how having the letter has helped with her healing because of the family’s ongoing court battle.
She and her husband, Clarence Suggashie, are suing Tikinagan for $5.9 million alleging the Indigenous child welfare agency operating in northwestern Ontario is responsible for the death for not properly watching Kanina.
Tikinagan has denied the allegation in court.
At the centre of the battle is a video of Kanina’s death that she recorded with her iPod.
APTN has viewed the video and previously reported Kanina was alone for over 46 minutes until the sole worker in the home checked on her.
“Kanina, take my hand,” the foster care worker says when she enters the room and sees Kanina slumped over next to the wall.
Kanina doesn’t move.
She’s been motionless for at least 40 minutes according to the video.
It was far too late.
Barbara Suggashie said following Kanina’s death Tikinagan told her she was suicidal.
But her husband has always questioned how Kanina was left alone for a minute, let alone 46.
APTN has reported over the last year that Kanina was “chronically suicidal” as the investigating coroner wrote in his initial report.
She had hundreds of new cuts all over her body when she died.
In the days leading up to her death, Kanina had multiple hospital visits for self-harming and suicidal attempts.
“Why didn’t they have her under 24-hour watch or one-to-one, whatever they call it,” Clarence Suggashie previously told APTN referring to a level of care where a worker is with a child 24 hours a day if deemed necessary.
Tikinagan has told APTN when a child under its authority is placed in a foster or group home and needs one-on-one care the home can do so immediately without approval.
But Tikinagan has refused to answer why they thought Kanina didn’t need one-on-one in a home of their own.
In fact, a video taken a couple days before her death shows the bruised outline of a noose across her neck.
She’s seen kissing and giggling with her girlfriend in the video – Jolynn Winter, 12.
Kanina also wrote a goodbye letter to Jolynn who she didn’t think she’d ever see again.
Then she got a video of Jolynn trying to take her life sending both on a path they would never get off.
Kanina’s final 10 days alive and the suicide pact
(Kanina, right, with her mom, Barbara Suggashie, and younger brother. Facebook photo)
A day before Kanina is believed to have written the letters to her family she had just visited them at home on Poplar Hill First Nation near Ontario/Manitoba border.
“She was pretty happy to see her big sister and me and my husband, too,” said Barbara Suggashie.
But the happiness turned to anger.
“They told her that she’s going to be here for a week,” she said. “They had to go back after the funeral.”
The funeral was for her cousin Alayna Moose who died by suicide.
Following the death, Tikinagan alleges in court records Kanina was placed under “close supervision’ at the O-Shkee Meekena Youth Health Centre on Cat Lake First Nation where she had been for the better part of four months. The centre is for youth needing treatment for behaviourial and substance abuse issues.
Then she was flown to the Sioux Lookout to be treated for self-harming and subsequent counselling from Nodin Child and Family Intervention Services.
“She is not feeling suicidal now. She felt like that 2 days ago why she was send here,” wrote Kanina’s counsellor, Violet Tuesday, verbatim in her notes of the session on Oct. 21, 2016 previously obtained by APTN.
“She was showing me her cuts to her arms healed ones/some new ones. She told me she has fresh ones to her thighs. She said she does that from feeling frustrated, hopeless and lonely.”
Kanina told Tuesday all she wanted was to go home.
“She is tired of being in care,” wrote Tuesday. “She agreed to think Tik is not going to keep her forever.”
Kanina was back at the hospital on Oct. 24, 2016, again for self-harming.
That same day it’s believed Jolynn sent Kanina a video of her attempting to take her life according to the timestamp on the video found on Kanina’s iPod.
It’s 58 seconds and Jolynn attempts to hang herself in a room as she holds a device recording it while another girl watches.
(Jolynn Winter, left, with Kanina Sue Turtle days before Kanina’s death. Jolynn would also die by suicide about two months later. Facebook photo)
“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 in court.
As APTN has reported, Kanina missed every appointment for the next five days until she died. Tuesday’s notes detail her difficulty in reaching Tikinagan to find out why she was missing appointments.
This story goes into detail of those final five days.
Barbara Suggashie just happened to be at the hospital for an unrelated appointment when Kanina was there. She said Kanina wouldn’t talk much about what happened.
In her goodbye letter to Jolynn, Kanina said it hurt too much to open up.
Jolynn had been in child protective services for most of her life when she met Kanina at the Cat Lake treatment centre.
But in Kanina’s last days alive she and Jolynn were together again in Sioux Lookout.
Tuesday spoke with Kanina’s Tikinagan worker named Ashley on Oct. 27, 2016 according to her records.
They talked about Jolynn and Kanina.
“Her friend was only 12 years old/suicidal together,” wrote Tuesday. “They got caught kissing each other. She stated she told (Kanina) she could get charged doing this to 12 year old.”
The Tikinagan worker appears to believe both girls were “suicidal together” according to Tuesday’s notes of the call.
Tikinagan alleges in court it only found out after Kanina died that she was in a suicide pact.
The following day, Oct. 28, 2016, both girls were together again.
That afternoon Kanina filmed a suicide attempt in a wooded area.
Both girls remained out on their own throughout the night.
The Ontario Provincial Police found them the next morning on Oct. 29, 2016.
Kanina would be dead by 6 p.m.
Tikinagan said she was left alone in her room of the foster home while a worker made dinner. Tikinagan has never seen the video of Kanina’s death. A baby or toddler can be heard crying in the background.
Kanina never said a word in the video.
Jolynn died by suicide in early January 2017 after she was sent home to Wapekeka First Nation for the first time in her life according to a previous interview with her grandmother.
She was sent there after first attempting to kill herself days after Kanina died, the grandmother said.
Kanina wrote one last letter
(Kanina, left, with her big sister, Shania Turtle. Facebook photo)
In total, Kanina wrote three separate letters. One to her mom, dad and brothers, another to Jolynn and one for her big sister Shania Turtle who also spent many years in care with Tikinagan.
She and her sister were close.
“I’m sorry for all these years we did. I will always love you,” wrote Kanina referring to their time in child welfare. “I just can’t take it anymore being away from u guys and same as my gf. I love u don’t forget that.”
Today, Shania is raising a daughter on Poplar Hill.
Hours before Kanina died they chatted on Facebook messenger while Kanina was on the lamb with Jolynn. They were at the Tim Horton’s in Sioux Lookout where there was free wifi.
It’s right around the corner from the Tikinagan-operated foster home Kanina was placed in.
Shania was in the hospital in Sioux Lookout.
“Don’t tell anyone we’re at tims,” Kanina wrote.
“Come see me,” Shania wrote back.
Kanina never made it.
Or wrote back.
The wifi at the Tikinagan home was turned off according to the coroner’s report.
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