Abuse allegations in Val-d'Or stemmed from Sindy Ruperthouse disappearance
A father is left wondering what happened to missing daughter Sindy Ruperthouse's case
Sindy Ruperthouse is the Algonquin woman whose disappearance set off a chain of events that led to the discovery that many aboriginal women in Val-d'Or had faced alleged abuse at the hands of provincial police officers.
"The months have been long, long since April 2014. Me and my wife, we went to Montreal, we went to Ottawa, everywhere. We even went to Radisson, Chisasibi, up north to search for her," says her father, Johnny Wylde.
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Investigative journalists with Radio-Canada's Enquête program discovered the culture of violence against women in northern Quebec after launching an investigation into Ruperthouse's disappearance.
The women Enquête spoke to reported variations of the same kind of experience: Getting roughed up — with some forced to perform sex acts— before being driven out of town, dumped and told to walk home to sober up.
It's been a year since Ruperthouse, 44, of Pikogan (north of Val-d'Or) went missing. The circumstances of her disappearance have not yet been uncovered.
She was last seen in a Val-d'Or hospital in the spring of 2014, where she was recovering from being beaten up.
And then she was gone.
Her parents, Johnny Wylde and Émilie Ruperthouse Wylde, say they asked the Sûreté du Québec for help in finding her, telling officers that she had a history of alcohol abuse, and that she stayed away for that reason.
When Enqûete began examining the investigation into Sindy's disappearance, they heard about leads that hadn't been followed up and a family who drove all weekend, every weekend in search of their daughter.
This past week, the Grand Council of the Cree offered a $50,000 reward to anyone with information on Ruperthouse's whereabouts.
According to Martin Prud'homme, the director-general of the SQ, Ruperthouse's file has now become a murder investigation even if her body has not yet been found.
Meanwhile, her family is left with a mounting pile of questions.
While he's still holding out hope that his daughter is found alive, Wylde wants to know why it has taken police so long to search for his daughter and for her case to be taken seriously. He also wants incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau to make good on his promise of an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
"We want to know what's happening to everybody here in Quebec, even in Canada. Not only in Val-d'Or. What's going on for the natives? What's going on with the policemen? We can hear today what's going in Saskatchewan and Manitoba... We heard everything today. Why today? Why not two years ago?" Wylde says.
Eight SQ officers are currently under investigation for 11 criminal allegations related to the Val-d'Or revelations, two of which are for sexual misconduct. However, one of the sexual misconduct allegations involves an officer who has since died, and the other suspect has not been identified.
More reading on Val-d'Or
With files from CBC's Alex Leduc