Mothers, daughters, survivors give harrowing testimony at MMIWG hearings in Labrador

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Happy Valley-Goose Bay heard about a daughter and mother who were killed by abusive partners.

Commissioners hear of justice system shortfalls, lack of protection for victims

Johannes and Rutie Lampe talk about the pain of losing a daughter, killed by her boyfriend in 2010. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Rutie Lampe of Nain says the justice system was too slow to respond when her 20-year-old daughter Kimberly Jararuse was killed by her boyfriend in 2010.

She told her story Thursday to the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls during its second day in Labrador. 

Lucas Abel was convicted of manslaughter in Jararuse's death and sentenced to seven years.

Police told Kimberly Jararuse's family that she had to file her own complaint about abuse. (Submitted)

Lampe said the relationship lasted only 18 months, and was violent from the beginning. She repeatedly called the police about Abel, but said they would sometimes take a long time to respond or not respond at all.  

"I called the RCMP a lot of times to see if I could do anything, like charge him. But I couldn't because she was of age, and she had to make the complaint herself," she said.

This is the impact of murder on the heart, on the family.- Johannes Lampe

Lampe said her daughter couldn't bring herself to leave, even though she knew she was being abused.

In November 2009, two months before she died, she stumbled in to her mother's house in a frantic state, saying Abel had choked her.

Lampe called the RCMP but no one responded. Instead, the officer suggested Kimberly make a statement the next day.

"I told her, 'You better go to the RCMP tomorrow and make a statement," Lampe remembered,  "'He almost killed you.'''

Lampe described the pain of losing her daughter, and having to wait two years for the case to go to trial.

Abel was originally charged with second-degree murder, but convicted of manslaughter, in part because Kimberly's cause of death couldn't be determined.

Rutie Lampe's husband, Kimberly's stepfather, Johannes Lampe also spoke at the inquiry.

"Our story regarding Kimberly is very difficult and heavy for us. It breaks the heart," he said in Inuktitut.

"This is the impact of murder on the heart, on the family."

Losing a mother

Amena Evans-Harlick was just six when her mother was killed. Now 21, she was one of the youngest people at the inquiry.

Mary Evans-Harlick, an Inuk from North West River, was adopted by a family in St. John's when she was an infant. She had two children — Amena's and her younger brother.

Amena Evans-Harlick was six years old when her mother was strangled to death in an apartment in St. John's. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Amena remembers a fun-loving mom who liked making Rice Krispie squares and hiding toys in unexpected places to make her two children laugh.

As a child, she didn't know the circumstances of her mother's death; only that she was gone and that someone was responsible.

"We weren't allowed to watch TV for a little while," she told the inquiry. Her father didn't want Amena and her brother too see news coverage about her mother's case.

"He just wanted to make sure that we wouldn't be exposed to that."

As she got older, Amena grew curious about her mother's death.

"I just wanted to know," she said, "I went years and years without knowing what happened to her."

Online searches turned up articles with the horrifying details.

On December 12, 2002, Amena's mother Mary was killed by Scott Joseph Gauthier in his apartment.

Mary Evans-Harlick was 24 when she was killed in 2002. (Submitted)

According to the reports Amena read online, Gauthier assaulted her mother and then killed her out of fear she'd report him to police.

"He strangled her with her rawhide necklace and then put her in a sleeping bag and put her in a crawlspace under the stairs."

Amena told the inquiry that her mother's death made her fear for her own safety. As a teenager, she worried about Gauthier being released from prison and feared he'd come after her.

"I wish things were different, I don't want to feel that scared," she said.

Asked why she wanted to testify, Amena said she wanted other young women who'd lived through tragedy to hear her story.

"I think it's important to have a voice so young because there are other little girls," she said. "They aren't going through this alone."

She was 6 when her mother was killed, but she vividly remembers her mother, she tells the MMIWG inquiry in Happy Valley-Goose Bay 3:29

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson was clearly moved by the story.

"We're not far from where she came from, North West River," Robinson said.

"I'm really honoured to be in her territory, in your territory, with you," she continued, "I feel overwhelming pride and admiration."

Survivors speak

The inquiry also heard from two women who testified about their own experiences.

Benigna Ittulak of Nain told commissioners about a violent relationship that lasted 17 years.

Benigna Ittulak says she survived a violent relationship that lasted 17 years. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

In 1993, when she was only 15, she was so badly beaten she thought she would die. The assault happened outside on a street with several witnesses.

"I thought, he's going to kill me in front of all these people," she said. "They're just going to watch me die."

Her abuser was jailed and released many times, coming back to her over and over.​

I want to share this story because I survived. My mother is not here talking about me in the past tense.- Benigna   Ittulak

Ittulak worried that if she didn't take him back, "He would make good on his threats: 'I'll kill you if you leave me.'"

In 2000, Ittulak's ex broke into her house and dragged her out of bed in the middle of the night.

"He started choking me, and I knew, this time, he's going to kill me," she said. "I didn't fight back, I gave up. I was ready to die."

Police charged him again, but it wasn't until 2010 that the two split for good.

"I want to share this story because I survived. My mother is not here talking about me in the past tense," Ittulak said.

"I want to speak for all those women who did not survive. It's easy for people to say that they choose to stay in abusive relationships. I didn't feel like I had a choice.

"When you're told over and over again, 'I will kill you,' you believe it."

Fear in foster care

Sylvia Murphy, a Mi'kmaq woman from Newfoundland told the inquiry that after her father died in a house fire, she and her siblings were placed in an orphanage.

When the orphanage closed, she was moved around to 13 foster homes.

In her third foster home, Murphy said she and her sister were repeatedly abused by two brothers who also lived in the home.

Sylvia Murphy told the MMIWG inquiry that she and her sisters were abused in foster care, but no charges were laid. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Decades later, in 2002, Murphy said they reported the brothers to the police, but no charges were laid.

"My whole world fell," she said. "You tell your truth and no one really believes you."

Murphy said she was encouraged to come forward after hearing Juno-winning singer Susan Aglukark testify at an inquiry hearing in Rankin Inlet.

"When I heard what she was saying, I said, 'If she can do that, I can do that, too.'"