Suicide Inquests of Indigenous Youth: Let's Put an End to 'Undetermined' Deaths

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The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario states that "no death will be...concealed or ignored" ("Office of the Chief Coroner" par. 1), but this is clearly not the case with indigenous youth who have taken their own lives.

In Ontario, when youth under the age of 10 perish to suicide, their deaths are deemed as 'undetermined' by the coroner's office in Ontario (Troian par. 1). However, does this 'undetermined' label apply solely to indigenous youth under 10?

Sheridan Hookimaw had taken her own life in October 2015 in the Attawapiskat reserve community. Jackie Hookimaw, Sheridan's aunt, notes how "[Sheridan] was ill since she was small. She was vulnerable and [the] pain of her medical conditions was too much for her [to handle]". Now, the circumstances surrounding Sheridan's death were known by the family. However, had the family not been aware of Sheridan's condition, a suicide inquest would have allowed the family to understand the truths regarding her death.

Jackie Hookimaw still pushed political representatives into making the suicide inquest for Sheridan a reality, in order to seek further closure.

The results of the suicide inquest regarding Sheridan's death? As of June 2, 2018, Jackie Hookimaw and the family have stated that "[t]here is no answer yet". This, notwithstanding the fact that Stephanie Hookimaw (Sheridan's mother), desires for the inquest to be finished with. 

As it stands, the data regarding indigenous suicides for those under 10 years of age is essentially unknown. According to Jackie Hookimaw, this approach "is unacceptable and irresponsible".

In further consideration, the efforts exhibited by the provincial coroner's office in Sheridan Hookimaw's case reveal how familial closure through suicide inquests is a non-existent reality.

Without understanding the verity of evidence regarding indigenous suicides, how can we truly correct the suicide contagions that plague communities like Attawapiskat?

We can't.

Jackie Hookimaw believes that "[t]he coroner is supposed to speak for the dead, but through the current approach, this is not the case"

"These recommendations should dismantle the systemic barriers that exist within these indigenous communities, in order to grant justice for children's human and basic needs"

By signing this petition, we hope that the inquest will prevent other suicides. Moreover, we hope that Sheridan's death shall not be remembered in vain, but will rather bring healing and change to aid other children.

 

Special thanks to Jackie Hookimaw and her family for their solidarity in this matter.



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