- Our Town
Anaham suicide focus of independent report
The suicide of a 14-year-old First Nations girl from the Anaham Reserve is at the heart of a report released this week by the B.C. representative for children and youth.
On Thursday, B.C.'s children's watchdog, Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, released Lost in the Shadows: How a Lack of Help Meant a Loss of Hope for One First Nations Girl.
In the report, Turpel-Lafond focuses on the tragic life and death of a young First Nations girl and details a collapse of the child protection services meant to protect her.
Anaham Chief Joe Alphonse said while he needs to protect the privacy of the girl and her family, he wants people to know that she came from his community.
“This report speaks volumes of the inadequate services that are provided to First Nations people,” Alphonse said.
“In this case specifically to First Nations youth. When they are needing help it’s just not there.”
The report talks about a school system that failed her, about Health Canada’s responsibilities and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and the Ministry of Children and Families, Alphonse said.
“Both levels of government were involved and didn’t provide adequate resources,” he said.
“Our programs are often set up for failure and this is a prime example.
“We lost a 14-year-old girl. A beautiful young lady who needed so much more support.”
Alphonse said the community allowed the ministry to come in to investigate the girl’s death to bring attention to the issue to prevent similar cases in the future.
“This is the first time they’ve dealt specifically with one individual who took her life,” he said. “We’re thankful that they’ve done it because it seems like I can talk about these issues as a First Nations leader and it falls on deaf ears.”