Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Plight of Canadian Aboriginal Women

"At some point she awoke and was immediately physically attacked with a punch to the face, which knocked her out again." [attack on Rinelle Harper, 16]
"During the entire time she is being sexually assaulted by Hudson and [the co-accused teen], she is pouring blood from her face, the inside of her mouth and from a wound to the back of her head." [attack on unnamed 23-year-old woman]
Debbie Buors, Crown attorney, Winnipeg courtroom
Rinelle Harper speaks
Rinelle Harper speaks to CTV's Canada AM on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015.

21-year-old Justin Harper's appearance, when he returned home after a busy night out with a 17-year-old friend/accomplice, startled his mother April Hudson with whom he had been living. He is the fourth of eight children, and did not always live at home but rather with with his aunt at one time as well as being in foster care. His dishevelled appearance, and the presence of blood on his clothing was explained by both her son, 20 at the time, and his 17-year-old friend, as the result of an altercation with another man.

When his mother continued questioning him about what he had been doing that night the finally responded: "Shut the f... up or I'll do to you what I did to that girl last night". In fact, that night his mother and his sister had gone to a local 7-Eleven to pick something up. While there, they saw a  woman in distress who appeared in dreadful shape, complaining that she had been violently attacked. The two women offered to  help the woman in such obvious need, but she fled the store and they returned home.

What had occurred that night was horrifically grisly. Young Rinelle Harper, 16 years of age and a high school student studying away from her First Nation reserve was out with friends celebrating the end of exams when two young men appeared who appeared friendly and she trusted them because they were also aboriginal. They led her to the banks of the Assiniboine River where they assaulted and raped her then threw her into the river. She gained consciousness and crawled out of the river and they re-assaulted her.

Somehow she managed to crawl away, to be discovered  hours later, severely wounded, by a passerby who raised an alarm and authorities intervened to take her to hospital where she was treated and where she remained in recovery for a week before being released to the care of her family. The horrific attack against this young girl effectively high-lighted the plight of aboriginal women facing violence that threatens their very existence.

She courageously agreed to allow her name to be made public in the hope that giving a name and a face to the victim of a vicious attack similar to those that other aboriginal women have been subjected to, and often with lethal effect, would bring the attention of the public to focus on the matter and move forward on the demands for a public enquiry on violence against First Nations women and children.

Rinelle Harper has no memory of the atrocities committed against her. She had been punched, and bashed with a baseball bat, her head and upper body stamped upon repeatedly, and she lost consciousness as a result. And then the two men took turns raping the unconscious girl. Once recovered, she resolved to do what she could in speaking as a voice of one who had suffered, to inform the world and to plead the case for aboriginal women's safety: "I was speaking for the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, for those who don’t have a voice anymore."

That her attackers were themselves aboriginal speaks to the reality that the majority of such attacks appear to occur as a sinister dysfunctional undercurrent of the culture. Previous public enquiries and reports from the RCMP validate the fact that violence against aboriginal women and girls emanates mostly from aboriginal culture, that men simply lack respect and care for the vulnerability of women, preying on them, since most such attacks come at the hands of male family members as well as acquaintances and strangers.

When Justin Hudson and his companion had finished tormenting and brutalizing Rinelle Harper they turned their attention to the presence of another woman they saw on the street, a 23-year-old. They had originally started the night with the intention of breaking into vehicles. That morphed into a far more vicious undertaking when they came across Rinelle Harper. And now that they had left the teen for dead, the appetite to continue their dreadful predations appears to have been unsated.

They walked along with the 23-year-old in a manner similarly friendly to their initial link with Rinelle Harper. Soon enough they began assaulting and raping the older woman too. A male passerby shouted at the two men to leave the woman alone and his concern made him the next victim as the younger of the two assailants chased him and assaulted him with a baseball bat.

After Justin Hudson's outburst directed at his mother, a member of the family dialled 911. And that is when the two predators left the house. They were both arrested three days later. Both were charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon in relation to the horrendous attacks.

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