After 5 Teens Drown in Rivers, a Quest for Answers

Ontario investigates deaths of 'First Nations' youths
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2016 11:15 AM CDT
After 5 Teens Drown in Rivers, a Quest for Answers

It took years of pressure by indigenous groups, but an inquest is underway in Canada into the deaths of five First Nations teens who drowned in two rivers in Thunder Bay, Ontario. As the CBC reports in a lengthy look at the issue, the five male teens were between 15 and 18, and they drowned in separate incidents between 2000 and 2011. All had come to Thunder Bay from remote, impoverished communities to get a high school education. Did they drown accidentally? Were they killed? Did they commit suicide? The inquest aims to answer those questions, as well as those surrounding the deaths of two other First Nations teens in non-drowning incidents. "You’re sending your kids out to get an education and they come back in a bodybag," says Joe Meekis, a former chief of Keewaywin First Nation.

So much time has passed, however, that the prospect of fresh evidence in the cases is slim. Still, the inquest is shedding light onto larger issues at play: the struggles of First Nations teens who arrive in a city and stay with boarding families, ill-equipped to deal with the strange new world and the racism they encounter. Many turn to alcohol. One of the drowned youths was a gifted painter named Kyle Morriseau, whose father, Christian, draws solace from a First Nations legend about a slumbering giant. The giant promises that his people's spirit will rise in seven generations—Kyle's generation. Christian Morriseau says his son allowed his life to be taken to raise awareness about the troubles of First Nations students. "I know today, by what happened to him, that Kyle fulfilled his dream of wanting to do something meaningful," he says. "I'm proud of my son." (Read the full story.)

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