Closing arguments held at inquest into death of Indigenous teen Devon Freeman 

By Tyler Griffin

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Devon Freeman

HAMILTON- A lawyer representing the grandmother of an Indigenous teen who died after going missing from a group home says Ontario should establish more Indigenous-led and culturally appropriate services for youth in crisis to prevent similar tragedies.

Justin Safayeni is making closing arguments at the inquest into Devon Freeman’s death and says there’s a need for more funding from the provincial and the federal governments to better support off-reserve Indigenous children and their families.

The inquest has heard that Freeman was 16 when he was reported missing in from the Lynwood Charlton Centre group home in the Flamborough area of Hamilton in the fall of 2017.

He was found dead in April of 2018 and an autopsy determined he died by hanging.

Safayeni and Leanna Farr, counsel for the Anishinabek Nation that represents the First Nation Freeman was from, are laying out proposed recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths and improving services for youth exhibiting suicidal ideation or other complex mental health needs.

They propose using Freeman’s story as a case study for training staff at children’s aid societies and residential service providers.

They also say Indigenous-led mental health services and facilities should be established across Ontario.

Farr says a First Nation-specific call centre may have helped Freeman, who longed for a connection to his cultural identity, when he was feeling hopeless.

Jurors have heard Freeman attempted suicide earlier in 2017 and had a history of suicidal thoughts and self-harm while in a residential program in 2015 and 2016, culminating in another reported suicide attempt.

Jurors have also heard police weren’t told of Freeman’s suicidal ideation, or his suicide attempt, when he was reported missing in the fall of 2017. No safety concerns were listed on the missing persons report, the inquest has heard.

Closing arguments are expected to conclude on Thursday.

The inquest’s jury may then make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths from occurring in similar circumstances.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2022. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

 

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