Fam­ily calls for in­quest into Indige­nous teenager’s sui­cide

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Canada -

The fam­ily of a teenager who killed her­self in a re­mote Indige­nous com­mu­nity on James Bay is call­ing for a coroner’s in­quest into her death two years ago, which sparked a cri­sis that gar­nered in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion and po­lit­i­cal prom­ises of change.

In a let­ter to the re­gional coroner in north­west­ern On­tario, Stephanie Hooki­maw said rel­a­tives in Attawapiskat are still strug­gling to come to grips with what drove her daugh­ter Sheri­dan Hooki­maw, 13, to her self­in­flicted death and what might be done to pre­vent fur­ther such sui­cides.

“It seems that noth­ing has changed in the com­mu­nity — it is busi­ness as usual,” Hooki­maw wrote in a let­ter. “The fam­ily and I think, how­ever, that this death could have been pre­vented.”

The let­ter to Dr. Michael Wilson warns that other young peo­ple in Attawapiskat and in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties else­where are sui­ci­dal.

It also cites Health In­sti­tute sta­tis­tics that First Na­tions girls kill them­selves at an alarm­ing rate - seven times higher than their non-abo­rig­i­nal coun­ter­parts. A coroner’s in­quest, Hooki­maw said, would help get at the sys­temic causes of the sui­cides.

“An in­quiry could help pre­vent more deaths,” Hooki­maw said. “Sheri­dan’s tragic death should not be in vain. We want to see changes in the in­sti­tu­tions that are sup­posed to nour­ish, pro­tect and care for our chil­dren.”

The fam­ily said it had not heard from Wilson to the let­ter sent two weeks ago, and he did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

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