Family calls for inquest into Indigenous teenager’s suicide
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.