Mother of First Nations sexual assault victim wants public inquiry
Thunder Bay, Ont., mother says systemic racism leads to First Nations women being targeted by perpetrators
The mother of a First Nations woman whose reported abduction and sexual assault is under investigation by police in Thunder Bay, Ont., as a possible hate crime calls the incident "horrific," and is pushing for an inquiry into violence against aboriginal women.
The 36-year-old victim told police she was dragged into a car by two men on Dec. 27 and driven to a rural location, where she was sexually assaulted.
Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime because the woman reported a number of racist remarks were made by her attackers.
The woman’s mother told CBC News she she’s speaking out "because I wouldn’t want any other mother to experience this; it’s pretty horrific."
CBC is not revealing the mother’s name, to protect the identity of her daughter.
She said she is certain her daughter wasn’t the first victim of the attackers, and she’s worried she won’t be the last.
"It’s obvious to me that these men are serial rapists," she said, after sitting with her daughter while she made her statement to police.
'Pattern of abductions'
A Lakehead University associate professor says Thunder Bay has a long history of violence against women.
"There's a huge pattern of abductions that are taking place in Thunder Bay...that are going almost entirely unnoticed by both the police and the general public," Kristin Burnett said.
As examples of that pattern, Burnett points to the 2003 unsolved murder of Rena Fox and the 2008 case of a First Nations woman who was picked up on Simpson Street and driven to a rural area where she was beaten and raped.
The woman survived, but her attacker was only sentenced to one year in jail, Burnett said, adding the situation in Thunder Bay speaks to Canada's colonial past.
"This is not new, this is part of what colonialism is," she said. "How you do colonialism is you denegrate and violate a culture's women."
Mayor says Aboriginal leaders must 'step up to the plate'
Burnett said the fact the victims are being taken away from the city as part of the attack also sends a chilling message the First Nations women are not welcome in urban areas.
The mayor of Thunder Bay won't speak directly about the current case while it's being investigated by police, but Keith Hobbs says violence against Aboriginal isn't a problem that is unique to Thunder Bay.
He said city leaders are doing their best to address the situation but they can't do it alone.
"I believe the Aboriginal leadership has to step up to the plate and help correct that issue," Hobbs said.
Mother seeks justice for her daughter
But the mother of the victim bristles at that suggestion, saying First Nations leaders and organizations are doing all they can to keep their people safe in the city.
She said systemic racism leads to First Nations women being targeted by perpetrators, dismissed by police and ignored by the justice system.
An inquiry is needed into how Thunder Bay responds to violence against women, she said calling for other victims to come forward with their experiences.
"All I want is justice for my daughter ... It’s going to take an incredible amount of support for my daughter to heal from this brutality," she said.
"I’m not going to let this go."