Her name was Christine. She was a professional speech therapist, the mother of two beautiful young children, and the wife of a former Winnipeg Blue Bomber.
They lived two doors down from us in a middle-income new housing subdivision, the second part of a four-part plan to develop the southeast end of Winnipeg.
My stepson and her son played together. All the kids on the street played together. Although we travelled in separate circles, we saw each other as we hurried off to work, when each other’s families took walks around the neighbourhood in the evening, when we were teaching our kids to ride a bike, or during the annual block party.
I would often see Christine walking arm-in-arm with her sister when she visited. I think she was from the States but I never knew for sure. You could tell there was an obviously cherished bond between the two, just from their body language and how they laughed together. It sometimes made me wish I had a sister.
I was on the way home to Wadena from Winnipeg for Christmas with my husband at the time and stepson when we heard a news report on a Winnipeg radio station: Christine was missing. When she did not return home from shopping, her husband called the police. Her truck was found a few days later in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. She was last seen on Dec. 17, 1988.
This case has always haunted me. My former husband, who was involved in loss prevention for a major drugstore chain, was studying criminology at the time. He listed off the classic signs of a woman who was in an abusive relationship and they matched Christine’s characteristics and movements, as well as her husband’s, to a T. He then proclaimed that her husband had killed her and dumped the body and that’s why she was missing.
When the Wadena News received an item from Walking With Women about the call for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, I read with interest the writer’s reaction to the aboriginal affairs minister’s apparent comment that “Aboriginal men are responsible for missing and murdered First Nations, Métis and Inuit women.”
My first thought was of Christine. She was neither First Nations, Métis nor Inuit but she remains missing and is presumed murdered. Although her husband was tried three times and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, he was eventually convicted of manslaughter even though her body was never found. He wasn’t First Nations, Metis or Inuit either.
We know that within First Nations communities there are deep sociological issues that lend themselves as reasons for behaviour but, once a person turns 18, there is no excuse. Maybe it is really more complicated than that; but is it, really? As adults we have the ability to make behavioural changes, regardless of what our parents did and where we came from.
I agree with the writer of the submission that it is highly presumptuous of anybody to say who is responsible for the inequitable numbers of murdered and missing indigenous women, and the numbers are staggering. “First Nations, Metis and Inuit women are three times more likely to disappear, or four times more likely to die, at the hands of a stranger than non-Aboriginal women.”
It is a cycle that must be broken and it is not just someone else’s problem. Whether we are black, white, red or yellow, bad behaviour is bad behaviour. Abuse is abuse. It is the responsibility of us all to teach our children respect for others, and self-respect, regardless of colour, and to put up a sign in our community that says abuse and violence will not be tolerated.
By Alison Squires