Courtesy Robert Horton
A view of Thunder Bay, Ontario

Rape, Kidnapping Being Investigated as Hate Crime in Thunder Bay

Valerie Taliman
1/7/13

The abduction, brutal rape and strangulation of a First Nations woman by two white men on December 27 in Thunder Bay, Ontario has stirred fear, anger and urgent calls to catch the perpetrators, who, the victim says, told her they had done this kind of thing before, and would do it again.

The news of the assault on the 36-year-old mother spread quickly after the victim’s family sent word to a local Idle No More event on December 30 to warn the community about the threat the men made against Native women.

“It’s a hate crime against our community,” said Chief Peter Collins of the Fort William First Nation, which is adjacent to Thunder Bay. “This young woman has been through a very trying situation that compels us to do more to stop the violence against our women… We see that racism towards our people is still alive, and we remind our people to be vigilant. We also advise our people not to react violently to these acts... ”

In a telephone interview, Christi Belcourt, representing the victim’s family, elaborated on the police report and a statement issued by the family. She said the attack began at around 9 p.m. on December 27, when the victim was walking to a store in the north end of the city. Two Caucasian men in their mid-30s pulled up alongside her in a green two-door sedan and began yelling at her, allegedly calling her a “dirty squaw” and other racially tinged profanities.

When she ignored them and walked faster, they reportedly began throwing things at her, including trash. She says the passenger then jumped out of the car and grabbed her by her hair—pulling her so violently she lost clumps of hair—and shoved her into back seat, where he sat on her and began beating her.

She tried to fight back, but was unable to escape as she was driven to a nearby wooded area, where she says she was brutally sexually assaulted, strangled and beaten.

During the attack the men allegedly told the victim it wasn’t the first time they had committed this type of crime and “it wouldn’t be the last.” She told police they also told her, “You Indians deserve to lose your treaty rights,” making a reference to the recent Idle No More events in Thunder Bay.

Left for dead in the woods in freezing temperatures, the victim walked for nearly four hours to get back to her home. From there, she was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment and forensic tests. “The only thoughts that came to my mind were my children,” the victim later said in a statement. “I thought I would never see them again.

“It’s a cruel world out there and right now,” she added, “with the First Nations trying to fight (Bill C-45), everyone should be looking over their shoulder constantly because there are a lot of racists out there, and we need to be careful.”

Her mother said, “We felt it was important for us to get the word out because we are very concerned about the safety of our women in the community. And as well we want to tell people that even though this happened to my daughter, we are not the violent ones. We want to tell people not to get angry or to be violent. It’s very important that the Idle No More movement remain peaceful.”

The Thunder Bay City Police say they are investigating this incident as a possible hate crime. The victim and her family want to ensure that the police do a thorough investigation, and First Nations leaders want police to know the public is watching. “These cases often are not taken seriously enough and we don’t want this to get swept aside,” said Collins, who noted there have been many cases of missing First Nations women that remain unresolved.

A few days after the attack, Idle No More organizers held a candlelight vigil to pray for women who are lost and living, victims of murder, assault and sexual assault. Local organizer Joyce Hunter said they felt they needed to respond in two ways—showing support for the victim and to let others know to protect themselves. The Native Youth Sexual Health Network issued a statement: “Violence against indigenous women and girls has been, and continues to be used as a weapon of colonialism and a way to undermine the strength of our leadership. NYSHN sees raising our voices together against sexual violence and making change for violence against women to stop as an integral part of any movement.” They called on community members to travel in groups, stay together, and protect each other while not responding with violence.

With no suspects in custody, Chief Collins said he’s in constant communication with Thunder Bay’s police chief to ensure that law enforcement follows up and takes this hate crime very seriously. “We want to see them caught, prosecuted and convicted for what they did,” he said. “This is one example of why our people are uniting and speaking out against the kind of racism and oppression our First Nations are facing. We will not be silent.”

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Seems as though not much has changed since these folks arrived in 1492. They say such terrible things about Natives, then are the willing and waiting to abuse them. Andre Leonard, Hope to see Indian Country Today switch to Disqus for Facebook log-in ease of use soon.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Today, I will post it with the Lord Jesus and I pray that the perpetrators will get their just desserts. They deseve what our Lord will do to them in their life time. I know our Lord is faithful. Lucille

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Idle No More is a great communication system for Indians across Canada, the USA and the world! Its kind of like a central clearing house of what is and has been attempted on women, children and elders (Two men, and I use the term loosely, abduct, beat up and sexually violate her and leave her for dead - attempted murder.) It sounds like the US Cavalry revived in Canada.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I was just recently in Thunder Bay. As a non-native person it breaks my heart to hear all the racial slurs against First Nations people. When I walk with my First Nations friend I feel the tension: hard to believe unless you experience the racial hatred first-hand. This hate crime should be a call for a last straw in Thunder Bay!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Not to confuse the clear hate message of this particular crime, but women of all races have been carried off to tribal lands for decades for such crimes, due to the conflicting laws about jurisdiction. Perpetrators learn all about it while behind bars.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
I know what would have happened in our ancestors times. These evil ones would have been hunted down & had their you-know-what's cut off & shoved down their throats while they were still alive. Then in some tribes they would have been skinned alive & fed to some wild animals to finish them off. Aren't washichu's glad we aren't as rough in carrying out justice as we once were!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
this is disgusting and very wrong these men should be caught and dealt with as soon as posable how many more will they attack and next time maybe kill the world should know what is happening to these peacful spiritual earth loving people.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
i think it,s people with small minds that just don,t understand whats going on today with harper doing what he,s doing so who,s to blame for this HARPER!!! and me as a status card holder which i AM NOT ASHAMED!!! of but this bill C45 does not only effect the first nation people it effects everyone!! so those of u that r against native people i pray for u that u will see in the long run who this really effect

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
million woman march on Thunder Bay and send these fools to hell.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Things like this should never happen to anyone. I hope these animals are caught and put away for ever. Our prayers goes out for the victim.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
The sad part to these acts of racism is the fact people perpetrating this have to do it from driving in cars shouting out slurs to indigenous people walking or either ganging up on helpless women....no backbone at all....if someone is going to be racist at least grow some ball and a back...sheesh, hope they catch them soon and publicly announce their names, convict them and sentence them, they should have fun with them in jail

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
A note of advise: Sometimes when people witness a man pulling a woman into a vehicle, they don't want to get involved in what they think is a domestic dispute. So, if there are people who could help you, call out for help and shout that you don't know this man!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
terrible

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
AAAARGH

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
they should be looking for a 2 door green car...like in thunder bay there can't be alot of vehicles like that...and who owns it....i don't get it.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Wishing peace and justice to the community, along with the strength and courage to bring that about. Respect to the amazing woman for having the strength and courage to demand it. Watching from Berlin, Germany.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
What barbarism. Wonder why we hear so much about the New Delhi rape case and this is all to common towards our life givers on Turtle Island?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
This is 2013 and the fact that this world still has the mentality of 1492 is discusting. As a EDUCATED and STRONG Indian women I am DISCUSSTED with the acts of these pigs!! It's a outrage!! Our people will NOT BE OPPRESSED. The Thunderbay police should be vigil in catching these degenerates!! The world is watching. The people are feed up. And we will stand up and stand STRONG!!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It is really bad when we have to be afaid to walk in your city, we come there for doctor visits and we spend money which add's to your economy, I know of many First Nations come to TB to shop I have seen their trucks fill up. My self as an elder I am afraid to go out and always looking over my shoulder. Please I beg you teach your children about racism.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Something needs to be done about our own Aboriginal Youth who perpetrate violence and hate against each other....just last week an older First Nation female brutally beat my daughter while adult Abortiginal males stood by and encouraged the beating. Now she has several goose eggs about her face, blackened eyes, swelling, and has to have x-rays to see if any fractures occurred.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
The sick men who did this need to be punished to the full extent of the law. Women need to feel safe walking anywhere in the world.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
The police should have obtained a sample of their DNA, it should not be too hard to find them.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
And they always called 'Native' people the animals! This is beyond disgusting and outrageous. I pray for the family and for the mother. I hope justice is served to the max! This almost reminds of that one movie 'Time to Kill' with Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson. IDLE NO MORE!

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