Attack victim Marlene Bird a soft-spoken, caring woman who lived a transient life

A 47-year-old homeless woman viciously attacked in Prince Albert, Sask., two weeks ago, is described by family and friends as soft-spoken, kind and caring.
Marlene Bird is being treated in Edmonton for a number of horrific injuries inflicted during an attack in the early morning hours of June 1. (Provided to CBC)

A 47-year-old homeless woman viciously attacked in Prince Albert, Sask., two weeks ago, is described by family and friends as soft-spoken, kind and caring.

Marlene Bird is a mother of two adult children and was living a transient life in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan's third-largest city, known for a nearby national park and a federal penitentiary.

Her aunt Lorna Thiessen told CBC News she believes Bird struggled with alcohol abuse but nothing more serious.

"I don't think she was involved in drugs or prostitution," Thiessen said. "Her personality type was very mild. She was kind. She cared for the people on the street."

Bird, from the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, has nine brothers and sisters and spent several years in the residential school system.

Thiessen believes those experiences played a major role in Bird's life.

"She didn't get the support system that she needed," she said. "So she started drinking and fell on some hard times and became transient."

Friends in Prince Albert, who came to know Bird from hanging out in the downtown area, describe her as a kind-hearted person.

"I've got nothing bad to say about her," Wesley Yooya told CBC News, adding Bird was always very nice. "I knew her from hanging around downtown. Had coffee with her."

Wesley Yooya knows Marlene Bird from visits over coffee in downtown Prince Albert. (CBC)

Another friend, Camilla Morin, knows Bird through church services at the Prince Albert Full Gospel Outreach Center.

"She's a funny woman," Morin said. "She's really nice. She's quiet."

In Edmonton hospital burn unit

It's not clear how Bird was injured. Police in Prince Albert have asked any businesses with security cameras of the downtown area to contact them.

According to family, she was discovered with severe burns at around 10:30 a.m. CST on June 1.

She was transferred to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, and then to a special burn unit of the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

It is not clear if the burns are from fire or a corrosive chemical. Family members say Bird has been through two amputations of parts of her legs, and suffered a facial laceration.

"It's a sad sight to see," Chief Edward Henderson, of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, told CBC News Friday.

He says it was difficult to control his emotions when he saw her in the hospital.

"It's hard to stand there and try to keep your calm and not show your emotions as she's lying there, trying to stay strong," Henderson said.

"I think maybe [she was] just at the wrong place at the wrong time ... She was a kind, loving person. Never harmed anybody. Was caring. I don't know why somebody would do that to her."

The band has stepped up to cover any hotel costs incurred by Bird's family in Edmonton. Her 77-year-old mother and aunt are staying in a recreational vehicle and Henderson said the band will reimburse them for gas and food.

The YWCA has also stepped up to raise money for the family and for Bird, who will need considerable support. The YWCA has also been helping with gas and grocery gift cards for the family while they're staying in Edmonton.

As of Friday, Bird's condition was described as stable.

Difficult future

Thiessen has been keeping notes on what has happened, in case Bird has any questions.

"I have kept a daily diary of all the happenings," Thiessen said. "I will show her that when she wants to see it."

Thiessen says she was able to ask Bird if she could take pictures, explaining she had been through a serious trauma. Bird was able to nod her agreement.

"In case she wants to see later [when she asks], 'Why did they cut my legs off?'" Thiessen said. "I'm doing a whole diary for her. What they had to do for her day by day, what decisions. So when she goes back, she'll know this is what she went through."

With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen and Ryan Pilon


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