Manitoba

Police chief apologizes for language used to describe victim in homicide arrest

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth apologized Tuesday for the language used in recent police statements about the 2014 killing of Angela Marie Poorman.

Former police board member Leslie Spillett upset by portrayal of 2014 victim as sex-trade worker

'Stop blaming Indigenous women for being murdered,' critic tells police

6 years ago
Duration 1:49
Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth apologized Tuesday for the language used in recent police statements about the 2014 killing of Angela Marie Poorman.

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth apologized Tuesday for the language used in recent police statements about the 2014 killing of Angela Marie Poorman.

Poorman, a 29-year-old mother of three, was stabbed to death in the North End on Dec. 14, 2014. On Nov. 29, 2016, Winnipeg police announced they had charged an 18-year-old man with second-degree murder in Poorman's death. He could not be named because he was a minor at the time of the homicide.

At the time, the police made several comments to media about the arrest in the two-year-old homicide case.

"Their encounter on this one particular morning was essentially an agreement for sexual services for cash," a police spokesman said on Nov. 29.

"This agreement led to an argument specific to money and ultimately the accused in this matter allegedly produced a large knife and proceeded to strike or stab Ms. Poorman multiple times."

Ka Ni Kanichihk executive director Leslie Spillett (centre) addresses the Winnipeg Police Board on Tuesday. (Bartley Kives/CBC News)
Appearing before the Winnipeg Police Board on Tuesday, Ka Ni Kanichihk executive director Leslie Spillett said the police language amounted to victim blaming.

"It framed Angela Poorman as a sex-trade worker, which had nothing to do with her murder," said Spillett, a former member of the police board.

Spillett told the board the police language may further strain relations between police and the Indigenous community.

"Indigenous women are always characterized in such a negative way, which adds to their victimization," she said. "Stop blaming Indigenous women for being murdered."

Police Chief Danny Smyth apologized, noting he was concerned about the language before Spillett brought her concern to the board. 

"I thought we were perhaps insensitive with the way we released some of the information," said the chief, calling Spillett's concern a fair comment.

"We are trying to take steps to be really careful with our language when we describe these kinds of things," Smyth said. "I offer an apology to the Poorman family and to the Indigenous community."

Spillett said she accepted Smyth's apology and said she knows the chief has made genuine efforts to improve relations with Indigenous people.

The police board held a moment of silence this morning for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as the victims of the Dec. 6, 1989, Montreal massacre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.

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