Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

More than a victim

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I couldn't believe it when I woke up yesterday morning to a stack of emails about an alleged serial killer. For years, there has been rampant speculation about a serial killer in Winnipeg. What has been a highly sensitive issue for policing -- in the constant roller-coaster of First Nation/policing relations -- had shown up at the forefront, at last.

I suspect -- for reasons I haven't verified yet -- there will be more yet on how this came to public attention.
But for today, I wanted to post a letter from the family of victim Lorna Blacksmith. (I have heard some rampant speculation on the subject of serial killers from families -- some totally baseless, some potentially useful)
In this case, I thought it best the family put it in their own words -- from Lorna's aunt...

"I just want to clarify some things that are being said in the paper about my niece. The WFP is stating that my niece worked in the city's sex-trade industry. I would like to know where this information is coming from because it is not the truth. I want to set the record straight.

My niece was NOT a prostitute. Every time one of our women, our Aboriginal women go missing they are continually classified as someone who worked the streets. Every time the media makes such a statement, it further perpetuates our women as the continuing stereotype of sex trade workers who are less than human, expendable, of no value to society with others quick to judge and blaming them for the choices they may or may not have made....

This is who Lorna Blacksmith was and you tell me if this was just another prostitute.

Lorna was an amazing, upbeat, caring, healthy young woman. She had goals, ambitions, values, and beliefs. She was an academic achiever in school, her goal in life was to become a successful, independent woman. She was a beautiful aboriginal woman with a whole future ahead of her. Like any 18 year old, she made mistakes, struggled, endured challenges, had weaknesses, made misjudgments; she was a teenager who needed guidance, direction, in her life like most 18 year olds in this life.

Instead of focusing on the human being she was, your paper has chosen instead to focus on "the sex trade worker" label. As her aunt, I loved her. We all loved her, and cared for her. She didn't need to die that young. I don't appreciate the negative images your paper are perpetuating about our women. We are a targeted people, and we will continue to suffer as a people when stories regarding aboriginal woman continue in the light your paper has chosen to paint us.

Lorna will always be remembered as a beautiful young woman, whose life was cut short. You need to focus on the fact that she is a human being and to be treated with dignity and respect."

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About Gabrielle Giroday

Gabrielle has handled the police and crime beat for the Winnipeg Free Press since 2009, meaning she’s seen the best and worst humanity has to offer.

Covering the crime beat in a city known for its homicide rate and violent crime can be challenging, but Gabrielle tries to look at the more complex factors that drive violent events. She began the beat after originally joining the Free Press in June 2005.

Her previous experience contributing to the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine, the National Post, Maisonneuve magazine and NOW Magazine. She was also a member of the editorial board of the Queen’s University Feminist Review, and completed a degree there in politics and English. Some of the Toronto native’s favourite adventures include hitchhiking in the Cuban countryside during a stint studying in Havana, and hanging off the back of a jeep climbing the Kanchenjunga mountain in Nepal.

Gabrielle also felt privileged to write about the first-time elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the summer of 2006, and received a grant from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian International Development Agency to write about sexual violence there.

She recently went to Cameroon in fall 2010 as part of an expert election monitoring team, on behalf of the Commonwealth.

When she’s not chasing a story, Gabrielle can be found jogging every morning by the Legislature and down Portage Avenue.

She’s always enthusiastic about stories that involve investigating the road less travelled or the opinion less broadcast.

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