As police in Thunder Bay investigate a possible hate crime against a First Nations woman, a support worker says solving the case is more important than the label it is given.
A 36-year-old First Nations woman reported to police that she was abducted and sexually assaulted by two men who dragged her into their vehicle on the evening of Dec. 27.
Teresa Trudeau, a cultural support worker at Anishnawbe Mushkiki, is in contact with the woman and her family.
Trudeau said the woman’s attackers told her "that this had been done before by these two men and she was told that this was not going to stop, they're gonna do it again."
Thunder Bay has a long history of unsolved sex crimes against First Nations women, Trudeau said, adding that Aboriginal women often don’t feel safe in the city.
Details of police investigation
- the abduction and sexual assault is reported to have happened sometime after 9 p.m. on Dec. 27
- the woman told police she was walking to the store in the vicinity of Blucher Avenue, on the city's north side
- she reported that she was forced into a green two-door vehicle and taken to a rural location where she was sexually assaulted
- anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers
"No one should be arguing about it whether it’s a hate crime," Trudeau said. "[It doesn’t matter] what kind of crime, a racial crime whatever. It's a crime."
Police said they have stepped up patrols in the Blucher Avenue area on Thunder Bay’s north side since the attack was reported. They are also advising First Nations women not to walk alone at night.
As well, police are investigating the abduction and sexual assault as a possible hate crime.
"There was some reference made to the victim's ethnic origin as she is a First Nations woman," Acting Inspector Don Lewis said.
A hate crime designation would be considered in sentencing if there is a conviction in the case.
Supporters of the woman said in a news release that the attack was linked to the current First Nations protest movement, Idle No More.
"The woman was told that native people do not deserve their treaty rights as she was being beaten and strangled and raped," Trudeau said.
Trudeau and other Idle No More organizers in Thunder Bay organized a candle light vigil on Wednesday night for the victim, and all First Nations women who have been subjected to violence.