Manitoba

Cree grandmother recalls abuse described in shocking report on Manitoba Hydro workers

A Cree grandmother from Fox Lake Cree Nation says she will not be silent about the sexual assault she and a friend suffered at the hands of workers from a nearby Manitoba Hydro camp when she was just 14 years old.

'I was attacked ... by some of those men,' says Fox Lake Cree Nation's Nancy Beardy

Nancy Beardy says "it's about time" Manitoba hold a public inquiry into Hydro's activity in the north. (Nancy Beardy/Facebook)

A Cree grandmother from Fox Lake Cree Nation says she will not be silent about the sexual assault she and a friend suffered at the hands of workers from a nearby Manitoba Hydro camp when she was just 14 years old. 

"I start crying when I think about it, it hurts so much, " Nancy Beardy, 65, told the CBC. "It was hidden too long and it's time to come out."

On Tuesday, the province released a report from the Clean Environment Commission, which had studied the social impact of hydro development on First Nations — specifically, the effects of 4,000 hydro workers who descended on Fox Lake, about 760 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, in the 1960s.

That report included damning allegations of widespread sexual abuse on Cree girls and women by the workers.

I heard her screaming and then I took off. And I was dragged in a vehicle and assaulted by three men.- Nancy Beardy

On Thursday, the CEO of Fox Lake Cree Nation said the community was caught off-guard by the release of the report outlining those abuses.

"For a lot of them, it was just pure trauma again reliving their experiences, reliving the trauma that they went through during those horrific years," Robert Wavey said. 

Beardy, one of the survivors who in January shared her story during testimony in front of the CEC hearings, says the truth had to come out.

"I said in these meetings, 'You know what? It's not only the water and the land … that are getting destroyed, it's our physical way of life and our young ladies, if they ever experienced what happened to me,'" Beardy said. "I had to bring it out because there's lots of … older ladies … they think they're alone. But they're not."

Beardy says she was with a girlfriend when they were grabbed and attacked.

"I heard her screaming and then I took off," Beardy recalled. "And I was dragged in a vehicle and assaulted by three men."

Police took her to the hospital for treatment and, later, to the work camp to identify her assailants, she says. She does not recall what happened to them.

"I was so young and I lost my childhood," she said.

Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer says Manitoba Hydro has taken steps to ensure this type of abuse does not happen again.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story indicated Fox Lake Cree Nation CEO Robert Wavey said the Clean Environment Commission report outlining abuses should not have been made public because it was too traumatic for the survivors. In fact, he was referring to an internal review done by Fox Lake in 2009-10.
    Aug 25, 2018 11:27 AM CT

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