Indigenous

Family of homicide victim speaks out about aboriginal men being more likely to be killed

The family of homicide victim Marcus Blacksmith want to share their son's story in light of a Statistics Canada homicide survey from 2014 that reveals aboriginal men were seven times more likely to die of violence.

Aboriginal men 7 times more likely to be homicide victims, Stats Can reveals

Marcus Neil Blacksmith (top centre) and his family are seen in photo from Christmas 2013. Standing in the photo (left to right) are Tony Blacksmith (father), Marcus, and his brother Anthony Blacksmith. Seen sitting are Cecilia Blacksmith (mother), and his two sisters Vaughnda Blacksmith and Arvella Blacksmith. (Cecilia Blacksmith)

Dana Munroe's life was turned upside down when her boyfriend Marcus Neil Blacksmith was stabbed four times in her own home almost two years ago.  He died in the hospital three days later.

"I've never had anybody that I didn't trust or I didn't know to come [into my home]. If I had any idea this could have happened … I wouldn't have [had] anybody over that night," Dana recalls.

"It really, really broke all of us and it's still really hard for me and I can't imagine what his parents are going through."

On Wednesday, a Statistics Canada report from 2014 shows while just five per cent of Canada's population is aboriginal, nearly one-quarter of homicide victims that year were aboriginal people and 87 percent of the time, the victim and the accused knew one another. 
Marcus Blacksmith was stabbed inside his girlfriend's home on February 8, 2014. He died in hospital three days later. (Cecilia Blacksmith)

It also revealed aboriginal men were seven times more likely to be homicide victims compared to non-aboriginal males. Aboriginal women were six times more likely to be homicide victims.

"That's heartbreaking because it does happen to people, my people," Dana Munroe said. "It's hard to even talk about it because it's not normal. it shouldn't happen. it's not a normal life event."

Dana Munroe is also related to the man initially charged with second-degree murder, Jordan Munroe, 19. 

"My mom and his dad are cousins," Dana said, adding she was only starting to know that side of her family.

"I was trying to have some sort of connection with that part of my distant family and then at the same time now ... It feels like they hate me [now]."

'What happened that night?'

Marcus Blacksmith is kneeling in this 2013 picture with other fire fighters from Cross Lake. It was taken in Walpole Island, Ontario during the National Aboriginal firefighters' competition. Others in the photo (from left to right) are Anthony Blacksmith ( Marcus' brother), Jack Garrioch, Tony Blacksmith ( Marcus' father), Duane McLeod, and Kyle Scribe. (Cecilia Blacksmith)

Marcus' parents, Cecilia and Tony Blacksmith, and their three children are scared to hear the details of the night Marcus, 19, was stabbed.

"It's so unbelievable," Cecilia said between sobs, "I want to know why, what happened that night?"

Questions Tony also has as he waits for the preliminary trial. 

"I'm not too keen on it, especially after that meeting we had with the Crown," he said.

"It was second degree murder then they dropped it down to manslaughter. That really ripped me apart."

He often thinks of the time he and his sons Marcus and Anthony spent fighting fires in Cross Lake. 

Tony started volunteering when Marcus was six.  When Marcus turned 16, he asked his father if he could join. He passed the tests and signed up.

"I was so proud of him," said Tony. "As a kid he always came with me on fire calls. I guess that's what helped him make up his mind."

'Lateral violence'

Arvella Blacksmith is Marcus' eldest sister. The 33 year old is trying to become a teacher, like her own mother, and is taking a bachelor of education program in Thompson.

"It's actually affecting my school life a lot," Arvella said of her brothers death.

Now, most of her school assignments are about the cycle of violence amongst aboriginal people.

"I'm working on research questions regarding lateral violence, like violence against each other," she said, adding her brother did not fit the stereotype often associated with violence and aboriginal men.

Marcus Blacksmith is centre in this family photo, taken Christmas 2013. He was close with all his siblings. His oldest sister Arvella Blacksmith (far right) says he even went with her when she gave birth to her daughter Saydee (carrying her in this photo) in 2007. (Cecilia Blacksmith)

"He grew up in a nice family, my parents are both together, they are actually loving parents," she said, adding she never saw alcohol in her home growing up.

She feels strongly about the need to expand the scope of a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls to include men and boys.

"As I was doing [research about] violence against youth ... I was going through all of these risk factors and I was like 'ok, my brother doesn't even fit in any of these', you know. But I guess just being an aboriginal it's still high risk," she said.

'Treated him like his own'

Marcus Blacksmith, his girlfriend Dana Munroe, and her son Martin. The photo was taken in 2013 when Marcus introduced them to his family. His mother Cecilia recalls him saying, "it was love at first sight," about the time he met Dana. (Cecilia Blacksmith)

Meanwhile his girlfriend Dana continues to struggle with his loss.  

"Things were getting really serious. We wanted to be together for a really long time," she said. "Marcus got really close with my son. He treated him like his own and he was really special to him, to both of us."

"He had a great relationship with my son and accepted him as his own. as a single mother, that meant a lot to me.he was a really great person."

The accused, Jordan Munroe is in custody. A preliminary trial is scheduled for April, 2016. 






 

About the Author

Tiar Wilson was raised in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Manitoba. She's reported for APTN National News, CBC Winnipeg, and CBC North. Tiar is also involved with CBC's database of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and continues to share the stories of these women, their families and communities. She's currently reporting for CBC Aboriginal. @yourpaltiar.