APTN National News
THUNDER BAY, Ont.-Thunder Bay police say an investigation has been launched into an alleged race-based sexual assault against an Ontario First Nations woman who was reportedly grabbed off a city street as she walked to a store.
A description of the alleged attack was spreading Sunday across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
When APTN National News contacted Thunder Bay police an individual, who would only identify himself as Cadet Doucette, said the matter was being looked into and asked if the APTN reporter had any information to pass along. Doucette said police were also aware of a Facebook posting that described the attack.
“We can’t give any information regarding this, but it is being look into,” said Doucette. “I can tell you that someone is working on it.”
Doucette said police also know about a Facebook post describing the attack.
The family has asked that the woman’s identity and her home community remain private for now, said Christi Belcourt, a family friend who is also acting as a spokesperson.
Belcourt, an acclaimed artist who designed a stained-glass window in memory of residential school survivors now installed in Parliament Hill, also said police were investigating the incident.
“It is in fact a true case, it is real,” said Belcourt. “The case is currently under investigation.”
Belcourt said the woman spent a night in hospital and underwent the required tests for sexual assault victims.
Belcourt said the woman, who is in her mid-30s and also a single mother, was walking to a store in Thunder Bay on Thursday at about 9 p.m. when she was grabbed by two men described as Caucasian, pulled into a car and taken to a secluded wooded area.
“She was sexually assaulted, she was beaten and strangled and she was left there,” said Belcourt. “She doesn’t know where she was taken. It took her about four or five hours to walk home.”
Belcourt said the attackers made references to the ongoing protests.
“It was targeted to a First Nations woman,” said Belcourt.
Belcourt said the family and the victim wanted to come forward with the information to warn other women and to appeal for calm.
“They want people to be safe, the victim herself said she wants women to look over their shoulders and make sure they do not walk alone,” said Belcourt. “They urge all supporters of Idle No More under no circumstances to be violent…they just don’t believe in violence.”
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, whose organization represents 39 Ontario communities, including the victim’s, also issued a call for calm.
“This cowardly attack is evidence of the racism that pervades Canada, but we don’t believe that the perpetrators are representative of most Canadians,” said Madahbee. “We offer our support to this woman and her family and ask all our citizens to respect her wish that we do not resort to violence or vengeance.”