Tuesday, May 27
Wednesday, May 21
Sunday, May 18
Saturday, May 17
Monday, May 12
By ANDREW HANON
May 45, 2008
The brown house where Morningstar Mercredi spent countless nights cowering in her secret hiding spot still stands near the corner of 107 Avenue and 96 Street.
Last year, the 44-year-old returned to the place where her now-deceased stepfather repeatedly terrorized and abused her. She had heard the owner planned to tear it down and wanted to make a special request before the machines moved in.
"I asked him if I could go in first with a sledgehammer," Mercredi recalls, a smile spreading across her face. "He said he'd do me one better. When the time comes, I get to ride on the machine when it knocks the place over. 'Whatever it takes to deal with your demons,' he said.' "
A few weeks ago, Mercredi checked in with him to make sure the offer still stands. She can hardly wait.
The story of the house and the hole in the wall where she and her siblings would hide from their stepfather is in her memoir, Morningstar: A Warrior's Tale, published by Coteau Books.
For anyone who grew up in a stable home, it's a gut-wrenching glimpse into an entirely different world: A hellish parallel universe where children can't even trust the people who are supposed to protect and nurture them.
In a matter-of-fact tone, Mercredi tells of growing up where abuse, neglect and addiction were the norms of behaviour, where nearly all the kids she knew had to fend for themselves.
Her alcoholic mother was in no condition to care for her children, her stepfather preyed on her and her transient father only periodically appeared in her life. The only remotely stable adults in Mercredi's life were her grandparents.
By the time she was in her mid-teens, Mercredi was an alcoholic and drug addict who allowed herself to be passed around northern work camps, exchanging sex and domestic labour for food and shelter.
When she finally encountered a normally functioning family willing to accept her into the fold, kindness and trust had become so alien to her that she didn't even know how to behave.
The tragic state of her existence was driven home one night in a bar when an otherwise polite young man let slip that he fully expected the evening to end in sex simply because she was a native woman.
"The impact on my spirit was profound," Mercredi says quietly.
Now 22 years clean and sober, she's a published author and playwright, an actress and social activist. She's setting up an office in the AndNow Centre, a collection of spiritual healing and self-help professionals on 107 Avenue, where she'll work on her first novel.
Mercredi wrote her memoir, in part, to show how child abuse can have lifelong consequences and to help people understand the psychological and emotional straitjacket abused children can be bound in.
"I wanted to show how someone can arrive on the streets, or in addiction," she says.
But even more importantly, she says, she wanted to give victims a message of hope, that they can overcome the rage and self-hatred that keeps them mired in misery.
"The point of the book isn't about blaming," she says. "It's not about being a victim. It's about overcoming trauma, honouring the warrior within and learning to live a healthy lifestyle."
Mercredi fixes a steely gaze and adds, "Believe me, I'm no f...ing victim."
Mercredi will deliver her message of triumph this week at the National Indigenous Sexual Abuse conference at the Kingsway Ramada Inn.
Sunday, May 11
By NICKI THOMAS, SUN MEDIA
May 11, 2008
While most families prepared for Mother's Day, the loved ones of slain and missing aboriginal women and their supporters marched through Edmonton's downtown.
About 200 people came out for the second annual Stolen Sisters Awareness Walk, with the hope of drawing attention to the disproportionate number of native women that are victimized across Canada.
Organizer April-Eve Wiberg said that despite accounting for only 2.7% of the Canadian population, 500 aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in the last 20 years.
"It's alarming to us because we know the statistics and we know that not enough people do. We're doing our best to get that information out there," she said.
In attendance at the march were the families of Rachel Quinney and Nina Courtepatte, both young aboriginal women slain in the Edmonton area in recent years.
"There was so many moments of raw emotion. People were genuinely emotional about what's going on and what's gone on," said Wiberg.
"Seeing the families - the Quinneys and (Courtepatte's mother) Peacha (Atkinson)- the fact that they have enough strength to come out and support us, it's just overwhelming."
Yesterday, one other community marched in solidarity with Edmonton - the Blue Mountain Nation in New Mexico, who found out about the march through the Canadian Native Friendship Centre's website.
Wiberg said native women in the United States and Mexico are falling prey to violence the same way they are in Canada.
She said she hopes that in the future, the Stolen Sisters walk will be held in communities across North America.
By DANIEL MACISAAC, SUN MEDIA
May 11, 2008
"Bad mothers and reckless women."
That isn't how Marissa Tordoff views aboriginal women, but after analysing the media's portrayal of aboriginal women who are also victims of crime - including murdered Edmonton teen Nina Courtepatte and her family - Tordoff, a second-year University of Alberta law student, concluded that's how many journalists and much of the public do.
"When you start to actually identify irrelevance in some of the articles, you can see how the stereotypes are propagated," she said.
"The entire act of murder had nothing to do with her parents or anything that had occurred in her home - so, I had to look at things with a critical eye and just ask what is the point in some of these articles.
"The allegations of abuse had never been proven - and yet there was mention of them anyway."
Tordoff's observations are included in a recent report titled Bad Mothers and Reckless Women: The Use of Negative Stereotypes to Excuse Societal Injustice.
She completed the study for a course called Aboriginal Peoples and the Law.
In her conclusion, Tordoff, 28, also points to a victimization of aboriginal women that began in colonial times, the subsequent entrenchment of that bias against them and a "blame the victim" attitude that allows people to remain indifferent to aboriginal issues and to the plight of aboriginal women.
For Muriel Stanley Venne, president of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women - which suggested the focus of Tordoff's study - the findings confirm her suspicions and observations.
'GIVES SOME LEGITIMACY'
"We've been saying it for some time," she said.
"But to have it actually analysed and studied gives some legitimacy to the whole issue of the discrimination and prejudice that exists."
And Venne pointed out how even the ongoing use of the term "high-risk lifestyle" to describe some of Edmonton's missing women can reveal a certain bias.
"When you say a woman lives a high-risk lifestyle, then you're blaming her for being murdered," she said.
Friday, May 9
Written by FRANK PEEBLES
Thursday, 08 May 2008
Treeplanters are getting the message as they gear up for the bush this year to look out for Nicole Hoar and do not hitchhike.
The Highway of Tears series of murders and missing persons is in the spotlight at IRL, a main forestry and mining supplier.
Store owner Tony Romeyn has set up a hospitality table with free muffins, drinks and other refreshments for the incoming army of treeplanters, and brochures about Hoar, perhaps the most famous treeplanter of all, are front and centre.
"We're telling them, look, you're off-road, you're in the bush, you're in those backcountry areas, so keep your eyes open for something," Romeyn said. "You never know what you might find, and she was a treeplanter, too."
Hoar had just finished her planting contract and was heading to Smithers to surprise her sister at a music festival when she disappeared. She was last seen at Highway 16 West and Gauthier Road on June 21, 2002. Since her colleagues at Celtic Reforestation knew she was done her work and her sister wasn't aware she was coming, there was a considerable lag time before anyone realized she was gone.
"It has been widely publicized. I know people in Newfoundland who are aware of it," said treeplanter Ian Stone. "It is good to see it publicized. Back in Newfoundland you feel safer hitchhiking or taking rides, but here it's different. It's not safe."
His brother Neil is also a treeplanter and he agreed that the brochures are important.
"There are so many new people who come treeplanting every year, it's good to see because you have to make them all aware. I warn the girls working on the blocks all the time about steering clear of hitchhiking," said Neil.
Celtic Reforestation shop manager Dan Ouellette is especially grateful for the warning materials. He knew Hoar and was part of the initial search that ranged from Prince George to Smithers and several other places.
"I was part of the search; so was the whole company," Ouellette said. "We shut down the company and the owner provided a lot of supplies and all of us. It was the biggest search in the whole of Canada -- 25,000 square kilometres -- and it is still a mystery."
He was impressed by the level of publicity and personal contributions that came to their aid, although it bothers him that the Highway of Tears had been claiming victims for years and for some reason Nicole's case rallied society. At least, he said, the issue is now national and in the public's eye and that is still real today, he said.
"Here at the office we changed our policies about how we operate between spring and summer plants," Ouellette explained. "We have a lot of workers from outside the province, outside the community. We decided the foreman has to know what those people's plans are and movements are in those times so we don't have a repeat of that event. You can't tell people what to do, where to go, but just have some communication."
Prince George Citizen