TORONTO — Kelly Fraser, the Inuk singer-songwriter who aspired to bridge the world of mainstream pop with Indigenous music, was “an incredibly kind person” who shared her struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder in hopes it might help her fans, her family said on Monday.
Fraser died by suicide in Winnipeg on Dec. 24, her mother and six siblings confirmed in a statement provided to The Canadian Press. She was 26.
“Kelly suffered from PTSD for many years as a result of childhood traumas, racism and persistent cyber-bullying,” they said.
“She was actively seeking help and spoke openly about her personal challenges online and through her journey.”
Fraser, who was raised in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, began playing music at 11, but it was a 2013 cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” that was shared widely on YouTube, and helped build her name within the Indigenous music community.
Her sophomore album “Sedna” picked up an Indigenous music album nomination at the 2018 Juno Awards, and more recently she received a 2019 Indspire Award for her work representing the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people.
The singer was also an advocate for Indigenous rights and co-founded Nunavut Hitmakerz, a project that provided workshops in Inuktitut and free recording equipment to underfunded communities in the North.
She “gave so much of herself to help others,” her family said.
“She was fiercely open with her fans in the hopes that sharing her struggles might help them know they were not alone. Kelly fought so hard to be well. We know that she would want us all to continue to do our very best to take care of ourselves. Please respect our privacy at this time as no further details about the circumstances of her death will be provided.”
The family says memorials for Fraser are planned in both Winnipeg and Iqaluit with details to be provided at a later date.
They also encouraged anyone struggling in the North to contact the Kamatsiaqtut Helpline, which provides 24-hour anonymous and confidential telephone counselling about personal problems or crisis, at (867) 979-3333 or 1-800-265-3333, or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or by texting “TALK” to 686868.