Teen Held Captive, Tortured Dismissed By Police As Runaway Case, MMIWG Inquiry Hears

Commissioner Michèle Audette hugs families from Unamen Shipu, Que., who gave devastating testimonies at the MMIWG inquiry on Wednesday in Mani-Utenam. (CBC)

Jean-Frédérick Gosselin sentenced to 5 years for attack in 2014, but Innu mother’s faith in justice is gone

The adoptive mother of an Innu teenager who was kidnapped, held captive and savagely tortured for weeks in 2011 said police never supported her in her search, dismissing her daughter’s disappearance as a runaway case.

Maria, whose real name cannot be published because her adopted daughter, now 22, was still a minor in 2011, recounted the anguish she endured in her testimony Thursday, the fourth day of Quebec hearings of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Mani-Utenam, near Sept-Îles.

She said the then-15-year-old, who is her biological great-granddaughter, failed to come home from a pool party in Quebec City where they were living in August 2011.

After her daughter’s disappearance, Maria said she drove up and down a 1,000-kilometre stretch of highway between Quebec City and Natashquan, her home community, searching for clues and following up tips she received from friends.

“I had the impression police weren’t helping me. They weren’t nice with me when I went to ask for information,” said Maria, who added she did receive support from the Missing Children’s Network in Montreal.

Maria said her hopes were shattered several times after police called to tell her they had found her daughter, who turned out to be a different Indigenous girl, one without the distinctive birthmarks and piercings Maria had described to police.

Found naked, curled up in closet

On one of her lone trips, Maria received a phone call that police had found her daughter, curled up and naked, in an apartment closet.

She raced back to Quebec City from Sept-Îles — a nine-hour drive.

“I would never wish this on anyone,” Maria said, describing what her daughter had lived through.

“She had been knocked out, had cigarette burns all over her.”

Maria said her daughter had been held captive all that time in a home in Wendake, the Huron-Wendat enclave in Quebec City.

She told commissioners she wasn’t able to recount the details of the torture and sexual violence her daughter endured.

“She remembers vaguely that she was tied to a wall, her arms pinned in the air, and the man was throwing knives at her,” Maria said, saying she can’t shake the thought her daughter could have died at any moment.

‘There is much injustice’

The teen had tried to escape but was knocked unconscious by her perpetrator by a blow to the head. A court later heard she came to in a bathtub filled with icy-cold water. Maria said the girl suffered serious long-term injuries as a result.

Jean-Frédérick Gosselin, now 40, was charged with forcible confinement, armed assault and sexual assault.

The Crown later dropped the forcible confinement charge. Gosselin pleaded guilty to the other charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Maria said that the five-year sentence doesn’t begin to repair the harm he caused.

She said her daughter never received any support from Quebec’s Crime Victims Assistance Centre, CAVAC.

Maria told the inquiry she had never had faith in the judicial system, which she says is devoid of any human values.

“There is much injustice,” Maria concluded.

Maria’s own traumatic childhood

Maria said she adopted her great-granddaughter as a toddler because of the unhealthy, beer-bottle-strewn environment she found her living in.

“I went in at 4 a.m., she was still walking around in her diaper. I couldn’t believe my great-granddaughter was living in this house,” she told the commissioners.

Like many of the witnesses speaking at this inquiry, Maria has lived through many traumatic episodes.

Raised with her family in the bush near Ekuanitshit, 200 kilometres east of Sept-Îles, at eight, Maria was sent away to a sanatorium in Gaspé.

She said Innu children from all over Quebec were sent there to be treated for tuberculosis, even though she doesn’t believe she had TB.

“We played around and had lots of fun. We certainly didn’t look like sick kids,” Maria said, suggesting the children were being “used as guinea pigs.”

After 13 months in the institution, Maria returned home to her mother, where she said she was the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by a distant relative who’d come into their tent at night.

“I was afraid if I told my mother, she’d confront him. And I couldn’t lose my mother. She was the most important thing in my life. So I buried the secret within me.”

Maria said she was then forced into a violent marriage which lasted 34 years.

She said once her children were grown, she had enough of it and left, reclaiming her life.

Peace, at last — and laughter

Now Maria said she is a happy person, grateful to have a great-great-grandchild. At times resorting to humour, Maria showed how vital that’s been to her recovery.

“My doctor told me I had one foot in the grave. I told him the other one is ready,” she said, setting off another wave of laughter from the hearing’s participants.

“Don’t be afraid to love your children. There is no shame in loving your child,” she told the audience as she finished her testimony.

Innu singers chant a song of respect for the witnesses appearing before the MMIWG inquiry and for victims of violence and their families. (Julia Page/CBC)

Innu singers chant a song of respect for the witnesses appearing before the MMIWG inquiry and for victims of violence and their families. (Julia Page/CBC)

The MMIWG hearings continued in the small Innu community until Friday.

Earlier this week, four women testified they had been victims of Alexis Joveneau, a Belgian missionary, alleging there were several others.

Joveneau, who arrived in Quebec from Belgium in the early 1950s, died in Unaman Shipu, also known as La Romaine, in 1992.

Women and men described to the inquiry’s commissioners the power Joveneau wielded over the communities, helping the government to force the people of Pakua Shipu to a new reserve 175 kilometres away in the 1960s, and the devastation left by the alleged sexual abuse.

Missing parents and children

In some cases, Innu families are speaking out for the first time in decades.

The family of Anne-Marie Jourdain said they believe their mother was murdered at the end of November 1957, while she was out trapping in the woods north of Port-Cartier, about 60 kilometres southwest of Sept-Îles.

Families from Pakua Shipu, near the Labrador border, also told commissioners how their children were never returned after being taken away for medical treatment to the nearby hospital in Blanc-Sablon in the 1970s.

A witness said death certificates were never provided for at least eight babies, who were never properly buried.

Read full story: HERE 

By Julia Page posted in CBC News, Nov 30, 2017


MMIWG Families Slam ‘Colonial’ Inquiry Process, Demand Hard Reset

Marion Buller chief commissioner of national inquiry. (CP)

Relatives, supporters says their concerns have been ignored by commissioners, minister

Dozens of family members, activists and academics have written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the “deeply misguided” inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls be scrapped and restarted with a new panel of commissioners.

The coalition says relatives have been shut out of the process and that commissioners are on a path that will not lead to the successful fulfillment of the inquiry’s mandate.

“They have continually dismissed our concerns, refused to take steps to rebuild trust, and have maintained a deeply misguided approach that imposes a harmful, colonial process on us,” the letter reads. “This has and continues to create trauma as well as insecurity and a lack of safety for our families, communities, and loved ones.”

Families wrote a letter complaining about being excluded three months ago, but say their deep-seated concerns were ignored. The letter was used only to pit families against families, the coalition said.

Families and supporters are also accusing Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett of dismissing their concerns.

A statement from the minister’s office said the government remains committed to ending the “ongoing national tragedy,” and that the inquiry’s terms of reference require that families be central to the commission’s work.

After meeting with the commissioners, Bennett was satisfied they had a plan and dedication to address families’ concerns, which will adapt as the inquiry progresses.

‘Immediate action’

The statement said the government is working in the meantime with Inuit, First Nations and Métis partners to honour the lost and to advance reconciliation.

“We’ve taken immediate action with a new gender-based violence strategy, changes to the child and family welfare system for Indigenous children, safe housing, shelters and work with British Columbia towards safe transport on the Highway of Tears,” the statement reads.

The inquiry has been plagued with problems, including staff departures and last month’s resignation by Marilyn Poitras, a Métis professor at the University of Saskatchewan. She cited issues with the “current structure” of the inquiry, which is set to get underway this fall.

But the letter from relatives and supporters says too much damage has been done and too much time has lapsed to rebuild trust now.

Instead of drawing on Indigenous knowledge and practices, the inquiry has been rooted in a colonial model that prioritizes a Eurocentric medical and legal framework, it reads.

“Such an approach is rooted in a broader culture of colonial violence that is inherently exploitative towards Indigenous peoples and causes ongoing trauma and violence for us as families,” the letter says.

Health, legal and community relations team workers for the inquiry are scheduled to be in two Saskatchewan cities this week to meet with families who wish to participate.

The teams are in Regina and Saskatoon to get in contact with families who want to participate in the truth gathering process which will be held in Saskatoon in November.

Source: CBC News

Frustrated Families Vow to ‘Blockade’ Missing and Murdered Inquiry Hearings

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, right, comforts Shirley Gunner, as John Fox looks on during a news conference regarding the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls national inquiry in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Father of murdered woman says inquiry is at a ‘crisis’ point

By John Paul Tasker, CBC News Posted: May 23, 2017

Some family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are vowing to blockade meetings of the national inquiry to protest what they call a disastrous start.

“We are prepared to take blockades against this inquiry, if it goes through our communities we will be there, it doesn’t matter where,” John Fox told reporters Tuesday.

Fox said many families are “tired of the commissioners,” the people who are responsible for collecting testimony from families, and they are frustrated with the lack of familial support. Fox said calls to the 1-800 number are not returned and emails go unanswered by the bureaucrats staffing the inquiry’s office. He wants to ensure he can get on the list of speakers when the inquiry finally rolls through his town.

“What are we supposed to do? What other things can I do to get my name on there?” he asked.

Fox, the father of Cheyenne Marie Fox, a 20-year-old woman who died in Toronto in 2013, said the inquiry has unfairly placed the blame on families for cancelling scheduled meetings this summer rather than admit they were simply not prepared.

The inquiry has said it would go ahead with the first meeting in Whitehorse at the end of the month, but suspend others until the fall because many witnesses told them that they would be out on the land hunting, trapping and harvesting and would not have time to meet with commissioners. Fox said Tuesday that was nonsense.

“They took that little bit of information, somebody said it in passing, but now they paint all our families with that one big brush, but that’s not fair,” he said. “The harvesting and all of that other stuff, that’s always going to happen … we would be there.”

‘They can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.’– John Fox

Fox said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was able to hold pre-inquiry meetings throughout the country in a matter of months, but, nearly a year after the launch of the national inquiry, things remain largely at a standstill.

“Why can she pull off the pre-inquiry, and get all the statements in that short period of time? And this inquiry now … they don’t have an idea of what they’re going to do? All the money and expertise in front of them and they can’t even get the race horse out of the gate.”

(As of May 23, the inquiry has already spent roughly 10 per cent of its $53-million budget.)

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also voiced his frustrations Tuesday. Bellegarde said he has invited the five MMIWG commissioners to meet with family members on three different occasions but was rejected.

“Clear communication and outreach to family members are essential to rebuild trust and ensure the national inquiry is a success,” Bellegarde said, adding the process must take a “families first” approach, based on respect for survivors and their loved ones.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many families have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

Jocelyn Iahtail, who has long fought for a national inquiry, said many have simply given up hope with the process so far because it has not respected Indigenous spirituality and language.

She said while Marion Buller, the chief commissioner, admitted last week some mistakes had been made, more needs to be done to regain the trust of many family members. Elders are trying to speak in their Indigenous languages but are simply not understood by record keepers, she said, and there is little respect paid to sacred instruments like the drum, fire ceremonies and tobacco.

“We cannot have our sacred stories yet again shelved like every other report has been shelved. We’ve had many family members state that it is running very much like the Indian residential school process when they were meeting with adjudicators. It is like a court process. We’ve been very consistent since the beginning that it has to be Indigenous knowledge-based.”

Iahtail said the commission has also been tight-fisted with money to help families travel to inquiry meetings, and has been reluctant to provide legal services to those in need.

Buller said Friday she understands frustration from families, but chalked up problems to poor communications.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished.”

The commission has cycled through three directors of communications in 10 months, and has been plagued by complaints from family members about compressed timelines. The first interim report from the inquiry is due by November 2017.


Curve Lake Man Inviting All To Toronto Rally For Murdered And Missing Aboriginal Women

John Fox: Cheyenne Santa Marie Fox, 20, died in April 2013 when she fell from a Toronto condominium balcony. Police ruled her death a suicide. Her father John Fox claims his daughter was murdered. Todd Vandonk

John Fox: Cheyenne Santa Marie Fox, 20, died in April 2013 when she fell from a Toronto condominium balcony. Police ruled her death a suicide. Her father John Fox claims his daughter was murdered. Todd Vandonk

Peterborough This Week, By Lance Anderson

John Fox says too many women “are getting killed out there” including his daughter Cheyenne

PETERBOROUGH — John Fox is trying to rally together as many supporters from the Peterborough area he can for a day of action event in Toronto in May.

Mr. Fox, of Curve Lake, the father of the late Cheyenne Fox who died in Toronto in 2013, wants people to gather to shed light on missing and murdered aboriginal women.

“There are too many women getting killed out there and the government is not doing anything,” says Mr. Fox.

He believes his daughter Cheyenne, 20, was such a victim. Although Toronto police deemed her fall from a Toronto condominium building as suicide, he believes there is much more to the story.

He has filed a $14-million lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service and has been dogged in his resolve to get justice for his daughter. He believes Cheyenne was murdered. He also believes his daughter’s death might be connected to an alleged rape that occurred nine months prior.

READ MORE: Peterborough man suing Toronto Police for $14 million

Mr. Fox has also filed a $1-million lawsuit against Andhuyaun Inc. and a man he believes committed the sexual assault which led to post-traumatic psychological and physical harm. Mr. Fox also alleges Andhuyaun Inc. was reckless in the management of a Toronto women’s shelter where Ms Fox lived.

All allegations have not been proven in court.

READ MORE: Peterborough man suing women’s shelter for allegedly allowing rape

“I’m not concerned about the money, but there was an injustice here in the way our family was treated,” says Mr. Fox.

To take it a step further, Mr. Fox even asked the Office of the Chief Coroner to conduct an inquest into Cheyenne’s death. However, last summer, that request was denied based on evidence obtained during the police investigation.

Mr. Fox is now considering appealing the Office of the Chief Coroner’s decision.

“I’m ready for that now. I think the public needs to know,” says Mr. Fox.

In the meantime, Mr. Fox wants to be a champion for the many missing and murdered aboriginal women and children.

He is encouraging people to join him at Allan Gardens in Toronto on May 23 starting with a sunrise ceremony at 7 a.m. At 10 a.m. a sharing circle will be held for people to talk about their loved ones followed by a series of speakers discussing their individual stories at noon.

Mr. Fox says they have chosen Allan Gardens as the place to meet because of the many women who have died there.

If interested in joining Mr. Fox and other supporters on May 23, contact him at johnwikyfox@gmail.com or visit the Day Of Action-MMIWG, Child and Men Facebook page.

— with files from Todd Vandonk


Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Pre-Inquiry Meetings To Begin

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the first steps for her government's promised inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in Ottawa on Dec. 8. Bennett will visit Yellowknife on Friday and Whitehorse on Jan. 11 to speak to families affected. (CBC News)

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the first steps for her government’s promised inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in Ottawa on Dec. 8. (CBC News)

By Red Power Media, Staff

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister set to meet with survivors and family members to discuss inquiry.

According to Global News, survivors and the families of missing and murdered indigenous women will have eight opportunities to make their voices heard over the next three weeks as a federal inquiry begins to take shape.

Inquiry design meetings are set to be held in northern Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia and throughout the territories between Jan. 6 and Jan. 22. The minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, and Minister of Status of Women, Patty Hajdu, are expected to be in attendance.

The purpose of the meetings is to figure out the form and scope of the eventual inquiry, which could begin later this year. The federal government announced the initial consultation process last month in Ottawa, saying a public inquiry will require input from survivors and families, right from the start.

The meeting schedule for the next three weeks is as follows:

  • Thunder Bay, Ontario: Jan. 6.
  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: Jan. 8.
  • Whitehorse, Yukon: Jan. 11.
  • Vancouver, B.C.: Jan. 13.
  • Prince George, B.C.: Jan. 15.
  • Halifax, N.S.: Jan. 20.
  • Quebec City, Que.: Jan. 21.
  • Montreal, Que.: Jan. 22.

CBC News is reporting that the families of missing and murdered indigenous women meeting in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday, must register and are encouraged to take part in an orientation session on Tuesday before meeting with the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Status of Women, the following day.

An invitation to the so-called “engagement event” was sent out to Aboriginal organizations last week from the federal government’s MMIWG Secretariat, asking them to distribute and share the email addressed to “Survivors, Families and Loved Ones”.

If you are survivors, family members or loved ones and would like to attend one of these meetings, please e-mail at AADNC.EFFAAD-IMMIWG.AANDC@aadnc-aandc.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-877-535-7309.

More meeting locations and dates will be added as they are confirmed, according to the department website.

The meetings are closed to the public and to media.