Manitoba

'Keep praying for this little boy': Dozens attend vigil for 3-year-old who was stabbed in his sleep

More than 40 people stood outside Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre on Wednesday night at a vigil for a three-year-old boy after a violent attack that sent him to hospital in critical condition.

Family claims mother's ex-boyfriend attacked toddler in Winnipeg's latest violent act against a child

A vigil was held outside the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on Wednesday night for the toddler who was taken to hospital in critical condition after an attack earlier in the day. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The sound of crying was accompanied by the beating of drums as people gathered to show support for a three-year-old who was viciously attacked while he slept.

More than 40 people stood outside Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre on Wednesday night at a vigil for the child, who had been taken to hospital in critical condition earlier in the day.

"There's a huge epidemic of violence … in this city, and it's escalating to violent acts against children," said Vin Clarke, one of the vigil's organizers.

"This has to stop."

Police found the toddler suffering from significant upper-body injuries after they were called to a Pritchard Avenue home between Salter and Charles streets at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The family said the boy was attacked while sleeping. They allege the child's mother and her ex-boyfriend were not at home when they got into a fight and he assaulted her. The family then alleges the ex-boyfriend returned home and stabbed the boy in bed.

The allegations haven't been proven in court. CBC News isn't naming family members to protect the identity of the child.

More than 40 people stood outside of HSC praying for the little boy who was attacked. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The boy is one of three young people who have been the victim of a violent attack in the last week. A 14-year-old girl was fatally stabbed on Saturday. Hours later, a baby was one of four people shot in a targeted shotgun attack. The baby is expected to survive.

'We can't fight violence with violence'

"Keep praying for this little boy. He's fighting," said Jennifer Spence-Clarke, another organizer of the vigil.

"Keep supporting this family, and supporting the families that are affected by all of the acts of violence that have taken place this last week," she said.

Spence-Clarke said she hopes the recent events are a catalyst for change.

"We can't fight violence with violence. We can't. We can't show our kids this. Our little ones are watching us," she said.

"Hurt people, [they] hurt people, when you come from a legacy of intergenerational trauma. People are suffering."

'Heartbreaking': child advocate

Manitoba's advocate for children and youth said the news of the attack was heartbreaking.

"When you hear about violence that involves children, it is just so difficult to comprehend, and it's so difficult for families," Daphne Penrose said.

"We continue to look at all of the reports and research that's coming out about kids ... and violence," she said.

"And we continue to talk about the need for mental health and wellness as being a paramount concern for everybody."

The family says the boy was attacked by his mother's ex-boyfriend while he slept. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Many families might not know there are resources for them, she said, noting that if they don't feel they are able to navigate the system, they can contact the advocate's office.

Her concerns were echoed by Warren Goulet, one of the founding members of Rossbrook House, which offers supports for children and youth in the inner-city of Winnipeg.

"Younger people are really resilient," Goulet said. 

"I know for myself, as a young person, growing up and experiencing trauma and violence, we have this kind of safety mechanism within us that allows us to forge ahead, not to take into account the scarring or the trauma, or the effect it might have us over the long term."

Vigil organizers say the level of violence in their community has now escalated to the point where young children are being hurt. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter currently working for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with previous stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca or on social media @CBCMarina.

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