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Group home operator failed to monitor troubled teen who killed herself, lawsuit alleges

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The family of Kanina Sue Turtle, who killed herself while in group foster home care, is suing Tikinagan Child & Family Services, alleging staff were negligent and “failed to adequately monitor” the 15-year-old from Poplar Hill First Nation.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a scathing report from a coroner’s expert panel that examined the deaths of 12 children and youth, including Kanina, while in the care of Ontario Children’s Aid Societies between 2014 and 2017.

Kanina died Oct. 29, 2016 in a Sioux Lookout home, operated by Tikinagan. In the final year of her life, Kanina was moved on several occasions, the panel found, following incidents of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and attempts to kill herself. She had to be medically evacuated twice from a healing centre, including five days before she died.

Kanina’s mother and father, Barbara and Clarence Suggashie, and five siblings are named as plaintiffs, and are seeking a total of $5.9 million in damages from Tikinagan, which serves northwestern Ontario First Nations communities.

Barbara Suggashie, through her lawyer, Cara Valiquette, said she brought this claim because she “wants some answers about what happened” to her daughter. Clarence Suggashie said Kanina “would have been alive today if they (Tikinagan) would have looked after her and monitored her.”

Read more:

They loved dancing, swimming, math and science: Portraits of young people who died in care

The allegations contained in the family’s statement of claim have not been proven in court and Tikinagan has yet to file a statement of defence. The agency only just received the statement of claim and was taking time last week to review it.

“We continue to express our deepest sympathies to Kanina’s family as we have many times in person,” said Tikinagan’s communications co-ordinator, Irene Dube. “We were all heartbroken when this happened. Now that this is before the courts, we need to wait for our legal counsel to look at the statement before we say anything more.”

The suit alleges Kanina was not supervised for an “unknown period of time” before her death and no one checked on her for “at least 45 minutes” after her death, which was when an employee found her body. Kanina was “chronically suicidal” in the period leading to her death, the suit also alleged.

According to the expert panel report released Tuesday, there was a “significant history of deaths by suicide” in Kanina’s family and she was taken into care 10 times over her life, usually for six months at a time. The goal was family reunification with her parents and siblings. Kanina provided support to an older sister and liked school, particularly math and science.

Before her death, Kanina began a relationship with another youth in care, who also killed herself. There was “no evidence of supportive discussions around Kanina’s sexual identity,” the panel noted, and “it appears that staff indicated to her that she could be arrested for engaging in a sexual relationship” with the girl, who was younger.

“While this is accurate from a legal perspective, this position does not demonstrate responsiveness or recognition of the needs Kanina was endeavouring to meet,” states the report.

Another friend of Kanina’s from the home killed herself in the weeks before Kanina died by suicide, her family said. She went home, briefly, to grieve.

The lawsuit alleges Tikinagan knew she was exploring her sexuality and “failed to acknowledge this in any meaningful way and failed to provide” supports.

In the days leading to her death, Kanina made social media posts “that indicated she was at risk of suicide” and had access to things in the group home that could be used to harm herself, the suit alleges.

Kanina recorded a video of her death on an iPod, which the family received six months after her death. Her mother and sister guessed at the password and unlocked the iPod, and “watched the video of their loved one, Kanina, committing suicide, without having been advised in advance” by Tikinagan or anyone else “about the contents or potential contents of the files on the iPod,” the suit alleges. Her father later also watched the video.

The “shock of learning the circumstances of Kanina’s preventable death and watching the video of her death caused” her parents and sister to “suffer psychiatric damage and/or nervous shock over and above the reasonable effects of grief,” states the suit.

The suit seeks special damages for the loss of Kanina and the life she may have had.

Through Valiquette, Kanina’s parents, who live in Poplar Hill First Nation, a fly-in community, shared details of her life.

Kanina spoke Ojibwe well, was happy and liked being at home, and was always good about cleaning up her room and the whole house.

“When she wanted to go out with her friends at night and we wouldn’t let her, she would make a deal with us, she would cook the family a nice meal for a chance to go out,” Clarence Suggashie said in an email shared by the family’s lawyer. “Then she’d make us Kraft Dinner, and she would come home on time.”

Kanina, her sister and her mother spent time together over a few days in Sioux Lookout in October, the month she killed herself. “We went shopping, walked around, talked and had fun,” her mother Barbara said, also by email. “She was happy to see us but she wanted to come home. That’s the last time I saw her.”

The coroner’s expert panel report urges an overhaul of Ontario’s child protection system. Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod has promised to move quickly, and said last week that “the buck stops with me and I will take action.”

If you are considering suicide, there is help. Find a list of local crisis centres at the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Or call 911 or in Ontario call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000.

Jim Rankin is a reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @Jleerankin

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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