Peterborough police acknowledge request for upgraded charges in death of Indigenous woman

Police in Peterborough, Ont., said Wednesday they are aware of the calls for elevated charges in the death of a local Indigenous woman, but the investigation is ongoing.

Cileana Taylor, 22, suffered brain damage after an attack Sept. 3 and died in hospital Feb. 26

Cileana Taylor is shown in this undated family handout photo. Relatives of a dead Indigenous woman formally asked police in Peterborough, Ont., to upgrade charges against her alleged assailant on Monday. (Savannah Taylor/Canadian Press)

Police in Peterborough, Ont., said Wednesday they are aware of the calls for elevated charges in the death of a local Indigenous woman, but the investigation is ongoing.

Relatives of 22-year-old Cileana Taylor asked on Monday that the charges against her alleged assailant be upgraded from assault to at least manslaughter.

Taylor was attacked at a house party on Sept. 3 and remained in hospital for months with severe brain damage before dying on Feb. 26.

"To see a life cut short is never easy and we recognize that part of healing can include resolution through the courts and justice system," Peterborough police said Wednesday in response to the family's request.

A man, 23, is charged with aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm.

Police said they continue to liaise with the Crown attorney on the matter.

"We understand and can appreciate that this is probably not the answer that provides immediate, if any comfort," police said in a statement.

Police also said they're waiting for the results of forensic tests, which could take months to receive. They said an update on the case will be provided once further information is available.

Alleged assailant out on bail at time of attack

Chief Emily Whetung of Curve Lake First Nation, where Taylor was raised and lived until the night of the incident, also called for the charges to be elevated on Monday.

Taylor and the accused had been intimate partners for about three months at the time of the alleged assault.

The man was already out on bail for a previous assault charge dating back to 2019 when he was charged for the incident involving Taylor.

He was released on bail on Feb. 3, three weeks before Taylor died.

"Gender-based and intimate partner violence continues to occur and for Indigenous women and girls the rates are even higher," police said in their statement.

"We recognize this type of violence is a systemic issue. Peterborough Police will continue to advocate for the protections afforded to victims of crime."

Hiawatha First Nation writes letter of support

In a letter dated Wednesday, Hiawatha First Nation said it supports the call by Taylor's family and Curve Lake First Nation to Peterborough police to upgrade the charges to homicide.

"The charge of aggravated assault is not enough when one of our young Indigenous women has died from his violent assault," Chief Laurie Carr said in the letter on behalf of the Hiawatha First Nation Council.

Carr said the accused is not welcome on the Hiawatha First Nation or its Michi Saagiig and Williams Treaties Territory.

"Our community has supported Cileana's family and Curve Lake First Nation through prayers and offerings as they sat with Cileana in the hospital, and after her death. Cileana, as all our Indigenous women are sacred and a part of the continuation of life for our people, our culture and our traditions. They are the link, and the connection to our future generations," Carr said in the letter.

"Cileana had value. Cileana had a full life ahead of her. The loss of Cileana's life is unacceptable to our First Nation, to all our Peoples and to human kind."

Carr added that violence against Indigenous women is never acceptable.

With files from CBC News