She looked down and cried.

Feb
23

 

As a youth court worker, it has never been the high profile cases, pews filled with press and families, but more often the silence that have impacted me dearly.

Last Thursday, Parminder Johal, a lawyer with the Youth Criminal Defence Office asked me to see an eighteen year old girl in custody for breaching her probation. The girl had a minor record and was being held in custody for a  warrant going back years. Her crime: Not completing an apology letter and forty hours of community service hours. A  Summary Offence, she should not have been held in jail under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.  I entered the interview room: a small cubicle with metal tables, a phone and wall of Plexiglas. When she entered; a petite Aboriginal girl, I could see her face was swollen, yellow and black, looking like old fruit. She threw a nervous smile and was missing a tooth. I introduced myself, “I’m here to help you and provide…”

“I’ve been raped,” she interrupted. Her lips quivered, eyes welled up, and then just looked down and cried.

I waited a few minutes.  “Perhaps,” I finally said, “somebody else…”

She shook her head and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “But you said you’re here to help me? Somebody has to listen? Don’t they?”

A lot of people should have been listening!

She told me she had been at a motel room with some friends. There were drinks, “But I didn’t drink much! I think my drink was spiked,” she added and waking up, bruised, bleeding from her vagina, called her mother frantic, who called the Edmonton City Police Service . As first responders, her expectations as a victim of sexual assault were different than what transpired. The Officer/s ran her name, found she had an old warrant and arrested her.

According to the girl, the only acknowledgement by the police about being raped, was once released she could attend any police station and fill out a statement.

This I know as fact: It was clear she was injured but was not taken to the hospital, she saw no doctor and instead was held at police headquarters. After a few hours, expecting to be released, she was paraded in front of a Justice of the Peace and remanded into custody. Housed in the Edmonton Remand Centre, triple bunked in a cell, and with no access to fresh air, this girl who had never been in jail before had to sleep on the floor, alone with her thoughts. Scheduled for a “Rape Kit”  on Monday, she could not shower or wash herself. Monday came and went. Only on Tuesday more than forty eight hours later, and still bleeding, was she taken to the hospital and saw a doctor and given a Rape Kit. Returned to the Edmonton Remand Centre she did not shower and continued to sleep on the floor stained by filth from her ordeal. She remain in custody, under the same horrid conditions for two more days before making a court appearance.  Her treatment in custody was confirmed to Parminder Johal by the shift supervisor at the Edmonton Remand Centre who acknowledged issues given a new file IT system was recently implemented.

In Youth Court, there was a joint submission for Time Served. Her expectation as well as those involved with the case was that she was finally going to be released. But not yet..

When she was arrested, unknown to those involved in her case, she was also charged with a new offence related to her old probation order and remained in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre another night.  On friday morning the crown withdrew her adult charges based in part on her treatment.  Six days later, was she released.

My twenty years working Edmonton Streets and over fifteen thousand clients in youth court, these specific allegations made by this girl about the Edmonton City Police and Edmonton Remand Centre, as alarming as they are, are not atypical. I feel supported by people like Brianna Olsen, a  registered Social Worker with Ihuman, and the testimonials from agencies like Edmonton’s Stolen Sisters.

It is a sad fact that our prisons and courts are disportionatly over represented by First Nations people, and perhaps part of this anomaly is due to the Justice system taking direct aim at these people. I am sure, if my son, or I had called the police, complaining of being victimized by a violent offence, regardless if we had outstanding warrants or not, we would have been treated much differently than this girl. People may disagree, and I hope they speak loudly about their opinions.

I spoke to this girl this morning. I don’t know if she has the energy left to continue her sexual assault complaint. She sounded tired, afraid to speak about how she was treated. I’m worried she feels victimization, humiliation, is just part of being an Aboriginal women in Edmonton. I suspect given the Edmonton City Police Service (Even though they have been made aware of this situation) have not reached out to the community or this girl, they too hope she just goes away. And then there will be silence. And a stated at the start of my blog, it is the silent moments that have impacted me the most.

 

 

 

25 Responses to “She looked down and cried.”

  1. Debra Gehring says:

    How does this continue to happen? Where is her MP? or an Advocate? What can other Canadians do to stop this from happening on a regular basis? This is not a 3rd world country.

  2. […] Mark Cherrington writes this about a teen girl he was assigned as a court worker […]

  3. Jenny says:

    Just appalling!

  4. Crystal Nash says:

    I want to know who I can contact to say how outraged and disgusted I am with this. I am emailing the Edmonton Police, but I want to know who else I should contact about this.

  5. Tiffany says:

    :’-(

  6. rp elders says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us I hope more people read this. If there was ever a reason for Idle no more to continue, it is the persistence of incidents like this. The authorities really do want the aboriginals to just go away, and be thankful we have breath in our bodies. Who has a chance, we (those of us less fortunate) only want to get out alive, with our lives; we may accept a few bruises because we recognise that justice is not something we have the strength to fight for. Even if this young lady wanted to sue she would have to submit to even more humiliation, the authorities win again, without question, and without accountability, shame on them, shame on them, shame on them.

  7. Dr.Dawg says:

    Kudos. Without your Tweets this past week, the story would still be untold.

    As it is, the mainstream media have been turning the other way. Thank goodness for APTN.

    Let’s hope the outrage over this forces the Edmonton Police to be accountable.

  8. Zahir M says:

    Mark, what is your email address? Thanks.

  9. Um, I don’t really know what to say that won’t be pretty trite and useless. But my heart goes out to her. Tell her some anonymous internet type said he hopes she’s going to be okay and that he wishes he could give both those police and the rapist/s a pounding for her.
    We need a better system that doesn’t victimize people like her.

  10. Dr.Dawg says:

    What happened to all your comments? Last I looked, there were a dozen or so.

  11. Dr.Dawg says:

    Apologies. They appeared only after my query! Please delete.

  12. please let this young lady know that many of us are crying for her, speaking out for her, telling her story. Even those of us who never face such treatment are outraged by the abuse she suffered not only from her rapist, but at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and defend her. I hope she can stay strong, I hope she gets support and love, and I hope this doesn’t break her but makes her fight back in legal ways, not only for herself, but for all of us.

    There are many out here who really do care, young lady.

  13. Wilson Plain says:

    These kinds of incidents are getting worse as time goes by. This is unacceptable, unbelievable and insulting to Aboriginal. Should not be happening. Period

  14. Gord says:

    I commend what you’re doing and speaking out about this. I’ve been in positions where there have been disclosures like this and I haven’t been able to do anything about it and the kid felt powerless. Speaking out is hard but good on you for doing it. I’m sure you’re being discredited and your concerns are being minimized, but just remember what’s right and what’s wrong and then act accordingly.

    • Mark Cherrington says:

      Thank you Gord! Had some “Push back” from police today. Your words are well timed and received.

  15. Sharon Hurdell says:

    A common story I have heard so often. I recall witnessing police brutality only 2x in my life so far but have heard of it so often. In ‘my’ world it is usually the men who are brutalized in jail cells by only a few RCMP although I have heard of some females but not personally.
    I agree with the great miscarriage of justice for my people in all walks. I tell the young ones that if they go to court they will be further abused and shamed. It seems like we walk into a brick wall with justice in this country so I help them build their confidence, let them know I’ll be there for them, and how to fight back so it doesn’t happen again, without violence of course.
    I’ve also told them how to treat even those who don’t return it respectfully as violence births violence.
    I recall as a teenager how I used to think we were nothing more than slaves and doormats for these non-natives who occupy this land. I couldn’t understand why my people called it our land because it sure didn’t seem so and still doesn’t in actuality.
    Thank-you for opening the eyes of others and standing for what is right. <3

    • I can’t imagine the horror of what you’ve seen/experienced. I know most officers are decent human beings. However, one bad apple, sullies the reputation of all. In Edmonton, I don’t know why the Edmonton Police Service still hasn’t kicked out officers like the one who tazered Fryingpan. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Mel says:

    I am a teen support worker in Edmonton and stories like this are not uncommon. Becoming “escorts” at these parties and getting their drinks spiked are stories that I hear almost every Monday morning.
    It is terrible that it is happening and it is terrible that no one knows it is happening. Thanks to Mark and others in Edmonton who are willing to put in the time to listen and the compassion to care.

  17. TL says:

    Good Morning Mark,

    I just read about what happened to that young First Nations girl. It really hit home for me, as this past summer, my daughters were assaulted and when the police were called, they were treated very badly, like it was their fault! We lost faith in the system and I wanted them to pursue, but they refused to go any further. My daughter was visiting in the city (she goes to school out of the province) and she was attacked and had to fight 2 men. My other daughter was hit as well when she tried to help, it was a case of wrong place, wrong time. It still bothers me to this day, it’s eating at me. what’s worse, the police laughed at her…I’ve heard of stories from kids who have been beaten by the police (first nations kids), treated very badly…

    • That is totally unacceptable. What city? Did they leave any documentation, and are your daughters over eighteen? If so, you may also make a complaint. I hope you don’t lose faith in “in the system” we need to make those who protect/serve us accountable.