APTN National News
OTTAWA – Rinelle Harper, the 16 year-old girl who survived a brutal attack in Winnipeg to become the embodiment of the violence faced by Indigenous women, plans to call for a national inquiry if she speaks during the national roundtable in Ottawa Friday.
Harper, who is sitting next to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde at the main table, said during the lunch break she hadn’t spoken yet during the meeting and was unsure if she would.
Harper, however, came prepared with handwritten notes she’d use if the moment came and she decided to speak to the roundtable delegates, who range from premiers to federal cabinet ministers to the families of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
Harper allowed APTN National News to view a part of her notes. She had them tightly folded in her pant pocket.
“For me, the inquiry would help women to come forward and report the assaults that happened to them,” said a portion of Harper’s notes. “The inquiry would be a chance for women and their families to heal from the past.”
Harper was found along the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg by a passerby on the morning of Nov. 8, 2014. She had been left for dead. Winnipeg police said Harper was attacked twice, the second time after she crawled out of the river.
Police charged a 20 year-old male and a 17 year-old male in connection with the attack. Both the accused were First Nation males.
Not all family members of the missing and murdered are in favour of an inquiry.
Elisapee Sheutiapik, from Iqaluit, said the money that would be spent on an inquiry would be better used by services.
“With the money you are going to spend on an inquiry get us mental health workers, get us housing,” she said. “We don’t need an inquiry.”
Sheutiapik’s teenage sister Mary Ann Birmingham was found stabbed to death in Iqaluit 29 years ago. The murder is still unsolved.
A man from Iqaluit named Jopie Atsiqtaq was initially charged with the murder, but a judge determined during a preliminary hearing there was not enough evidence to proceed to full trail.
Atsiqtaq was later convicted for the 1986 murder of a man and his mother.