The last time Jeffrey Owen spoke with his daughter, Amy, she was crying and asking to come home.
“She was unhappy. She hated it there.”
Weeks later, the 13 year old was found dead in her room at the Prescott group home where she was in care, thousands of kilometres from her family at Poplar Hill First Nation. Owen was told that Amy, who was under constant supervision, took her own life. He is waiting for the official report into her death.
She did not have thoughts of suicide until she was removed from her community to become a ward of the child welfare system, he said.
“Her spirit was broken.”
Amy Owens died on April 17. Four days later, on April 21, Courtney Scott from Fort Albany First Nation died in a fire at her foster home in Orléans. The 16 year old was the only resident of the home who didn’t escape the fire.
The deaths of the two First Nations girls far from home in recent weeks is raising alarm bells and fuelling calls for an inquest and legislative change.
Poplar Hill band council officials have told Tikinagan Child and Family Services, the First Nations child welfare agency, not to take children into care until the community gets some answers about how they are being cared for and why they are being sent so far away.
“They shouldn’t have to move these children so far away from home,” said Jeffrey Owen. “They are disconnected from their families.”