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
I pray for you and your race of people, because the curse of the white demon comes back from slavery where they took my people and did as they pleased, that is why they will suffer so much in hell where they r going, White people think they r untouchable and they can hurt us but hang in there and one day justice will prevail for us , only when Jesus comes will the world be right. They think they r getting by but they won't get away, as Dr. King says a lie cannot last forever, apparently those scumbags if they r ever found, they need to be hung by the neck and balls until they suffer like u did. don't worry if you live by hate and racism, you will die by it also. and believe me if they have any family, they r doing the same thing to them children and all, we live in a world full of demons and the devil has his choice of whoever will serve him, be strong and one day your justice will come.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
This is so incredibly horrible. In the ' 70s I was a kid in Montana and would over hear my parents talking about how terrible the Native people were being treated. I decided to see if people have changed, now that I am in my 50s; I know your website is read by mostly Native people's, but I find it very educational for me. Most of us really need to read/ hear what goes on in Indian Country -we should never lose our desire to become better human beings and try to change things for the better. All women need to be protected in our countries (US and Canada) and especially those of the First People's of these lands. People are being brutalized waiting for change - this is so tragic.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Of course it's not hate-crime if the perps were Indian and the girl was white- What a joke. Political correctness gone mad!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
It is not likely that the society is going to change from what it is unless there are rules against the dominant society that does alot of the wrongs... I would clearly ask these individuals if they have daughters, and how they would react should their daughters ever be exposed to such hate crimes because they were female? Being female is one thing, but being an Aboriginal female is another... the society needs a revamp, and the government needs to start imposing laws for racial slurs and comments made to people because they think that because they have an opinion and are conformed to the "right" race and how they should be able to get away with the immoral human acts to confirm their racial attitudes...? Animals get more rights that Aboriginal woman do that are repeatedly exploited, abused, raped, and made to feel that they are not worthy... wake up the government, and the so-called people that make the societal decisions in which every person is to conform to... it will be only then that the people that think that their "values or morals" in which they were raised with is the correct way and the only way... before people judge or think that they are "superior" to others should think of themselves in that situation, because in all honesty, you rarely every hear of Aboriginal men abducting, raping, strangling non-Aboriginal woman... ???

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
@ Anonymous ~ At one point in time, you say that you ARE a card holder (and proud of it) then you turn around and say you are non-Native. Which is it..... Don't even bother, I stopped listening/reading when I discovered your forked tongue.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Bring in the Tribal Police and watch how quickly the 2 criminals in this case are captured. Bet they have that green 2 door sedan tracked down in no time...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
This person must be punished by law so that he could never harm others because no matter reasons he may have still he took a life. As a woman we should always take extra precautions because we never know what type of danger is waiting for us outside. It's just sad that an innocent being was a victim of anger which she never played part. Things like this could merely be avoided now if we set our safety as a priority. Let us be concerned with our body. Be alert and witty when it comes to protecting ourselves. My friend told me with this panic button app and it fits in my security purpose needs. I feel protected all the time because I know in a single press of a panic button massive response from my family or 911 will come.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
i hope & pray they catch the people responsible for doing this .This woman did not deserve to die like this , my heart goes out to the family who have lost a daughter & a mam. I send my sympthies to the family concerned . I hope through forensic eveidence they catch them & I hope they have the day in court & given a prison sentence for taking a life .

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
when will this ever end hatred againest native american,s, its sad that our women missing and murdered, and the government dont want to do a thing aabout this, maybe we should idle no more and call canada a racist country on our people

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
My heartfelt sorrow and prayers go out to the victim who suffered such a horrific assault. I hope the perpetrators are caught soon and that justice will prevail.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
My heartfelt sorrow and prayers go out to the victim who suffered such a horrific assault. I hope the perpetrators are caught soon and that justice will prevail.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
If this happened in INDIA, the whole country would be up in arms, in Canada, just barely made news

gloria bee's picture
gloria bee
Submitted by gloria bee on
I understand not wanting to be violent, but we have suffered enough oppression. At least teach your women and children defense tactics and arm them with bear spray if they have to be out alone. Its to bad we have to live like that, but hey its reality.

anonymous's picture
anonymous
Submitted by anonymous on
I understand not wanting to be violent, but we have suffered enough oppression. At least teach your women and children defense tactics and arm them with bear spray if they have to be out alone. Its to bad we have to live like that, but hey its reality.

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