Saskatchewan

2 youth charged after alleged assault on transgender girl in Moose Jaw

The Moose Jaw Police Service said Thursday it is investigating after receiving a report of violence toward a member of the LGBTQ community that happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, near Westmount School.

Police say 1 youth is charged with assault with a weapon and assault, another charged with assault

The Moose Jaw Police Service released a statement saying it is 'investigating and working with community stake holders to ensure that this matter is dealt with to its fullest extent.' (Moose Jaw Police Service)

Police in Moose Jaw say charges have been laid after investigation into what an LGBTQ advocate says was a "horrific" assault against a transgender youth that was captured on a video widely shared via social media.

The Moose Jaw Police Service confirmed in a statement Thursday that it received a report regarding violence toward a member of the LGBTQ community that happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, near Westmount School in the Saskatchewan city. 

Taylor Carlson, the executive director of Moose Jaw Pride, said they have met with the victim and her family. 

"She is resilient," said Carlson, who is also executive director of the Saskatchewan Pride Network, which works to support LGBTQ people in rural Saskatchewan communities.

"A support network that has formed around her is ensuring that she's protected and feels as safe as possible given the circumstances." 

Assault charges laid after video went viral

On Friday, police confirmed that one youth has been charged with assault and assault with a weapon. A second youth has been charged with assault. Police said they both have been released on "numerous conditions" awaiting a court date. 

The incident was recorded by other youth and shared on the social media platform Snapchat, said Carlson (who uses the non-gender-specific pronoun they).

They said adults started sharing it on Facebook, too, and it was spread widely throughout the community. 

"I was first very saddened to know that a young person, who had been victimized and traumatized, would potentially no longer have the ability to participate in community life without that event following them into the future," Carlson said in an interview with CBC News. 

CBC News obtained a recording of the violent incident. The girl appears to be cornered by multiple people. She can be heard in severe distress on the recording, bawling and crying out to leave. She repeatedly says phrases like, "I want to go home," and, "leave me alone, I'm going home," to which someone replies, "no you're not." 

One person tells her to stop crying. The group yells at her to "sit the f--k down" and to "just bow down, bow the f--k down." 

Her clothing was allegedly ripped and her hair piece destroyed. An online fundraiser was started after the assault to raise money for a new wig and clothes for the girl. It had a goal of $300 and was closed after raising $1,385. 

Moose Jaw Pride is asking people to stop sharing the video — and start having conversations about privacy and respect. 

"We felt that it was important for us to use, or to leverage our audience and our trust within our community to ask folks not to share that video or names of the children involved."

Carlson said most involved in the incident are minors, between the ages of 12 and 18.

What happened is heartbreaking for the victim, but also retraumatizing for other members of the LGBTQ community who have encountered violence — or who fear encountering violence, they said.

Threat of violence a reality for LGBTQ community: Carlson

Carlson, who grew up in Moose Jaw, said rural communities can be alienating and isolating for transgender or queer people, who are already at higher risk of suicide and substance abuse.

"Trans youth and those who have experienced physical or sexual assault are found to be at the greatest risk," they said, adding that violence against the LGBTQ community disproportionately affects transgender women.

Taylor Carlson says LGBT advocates in the community are having conversations with the police and with educators to ensure the victim receives justice. (Moose Jaw Pride)

"Unchecked, divisive and dehumanizing" discourse in public conversation contributes to ongoing violence against members of the LGBTQ community, Carlson said.

"Threats of violence against LGBTQ people, especially trans people, is a reality." 

We need to remember that our kids are listening.- Taylor Carlson

Moose Jaw police said their investigation is continuing, and they are "working with community stakeholders to ensure that this matter is dealt with to its fullest extent."  

Police did not say whether the attack was directly related to the girl's gender, but Carlson said the victim's account of what happened — and the content witnessed in the video — make it clear that was the case.

People who question that should ask themselves why they are questioning the validity of trans experiences, Carlson said.

They want adults in the community to lead by example and to remember that youth pick up on the behaviour and words of their parents, or the divisive content they are consuming online or through the media. 

"We need to remember that our kids are listening," Carlson said.

"We cannot drop our kids off at school in the morning or tuck them in at bed at night, when in the background there are two adults shouting at each other over whether or not a human being is deserving of dignity.

"It has real-world consequences."

Carlson asked community members to have conversations about acceptance, compassion and empathy moving forward. 

"We are all in this together."

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