British Columbia

Paige's tragic story hits close to home for aboriginal mother in Vancouver

Melanie Lecoy dealt with addiction and abuse throughout her childhood

Melanie Lecoy dealt with addiction and abuse throughout her childhood

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. After hearing Paige's story, Melanie Lecoy is sharing her experiences of addiction and abuse in the hopes it will enlighten the public about the troubles facing aboriginal youth. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

An aboriginal mother of six living in East Vancouver sees several parallels between her life and that of Paige, the 19-year-old girl who struggled for three years with addiction and abuse in the Downtown Eastside and died of an overdose near Oppenheimer Park.

A recent report from B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth outlines the numerous ways social services, police, and other frontline workers failed to rescue a Paige, who experienced abuse and addiction at an early age.

"That's one of the main things I really related to with Paige, nobody really taking the time to have empathy and compassion," said Melanie Lecoy, who was placed into ministry care when she was 13.  "As soon as they felt they couldn't handle me, they'd just put me in another home." 

Paige, 19, died of a drug overdose after a troubled life on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (B.C. Children's and Youth Representative)

"I think it brought up a lot of my attachment disorder, with not having my mother and father. I didn't really belong anywhere, I didn't really have anywhere to go or to call home, so I was pretty stone cold now that I think about it."

Diagnosed with PTSD

Lecoy never understood why she was acting out until she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder five years ago.

"It really helped me understand myself. All the way through my teens I was just a hurting teenager and I needed help, I needed people to stick by me," said Lecoy. "I had all of the paperwork that showed what I went through in my childhood and my youth, sexual abuse, sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse."

"Nobody ever tried to help me understand myself. I was just a whirlwind of emotion and they didn't have anybody to help me and give me direction in my life. I was kind of just winging it by myself."

Lecoy says she tried to commit suicide three times, but after reconciling with her family, her situation has improved.  

Just need basic words like 'How are you?'

"I only needed a few people around me to actually really take time and ask how I am. Just basic words like 'How are you?'"

Lecoy hopes sharing her story will enlighten others and help them understand the situation many young aboriginal youth face today.

"I'm doing really good. I love watching my kids grow. There are various ways I've educated myself  to understand myself and the trauma of my family. [I'm an] inter-generational survivor, activist at heart, a women against violence. For me it's making an impact on my people. That's what I am concerned about."

To hear the full interview, listen to the interview labelled Melanie's story.


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