April 10, 2020

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Community looks into the darkness

Family, leaders cry for action on violence

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/6/2012 (2845 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

She was the first to disappear.

But Tanya Nepinak's grieving relatives say they don't understand why her body has not been located.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES
Amanda Sinclair at a vigil for her slain sister.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Amanda Sinclair at a vigil for her slain sister.

In issuing a plea Monday to the woman's suspected killer to disclose the location of her remains, the Nepinak family said they can't plan a funeral.

They can't grieve properly. They can't even sleep.

Tanya's sister, Gail Nepinak, said police officers talked with the family on the weekend but don't have any information on the location of the woman's body.

Struggling to keep from crying, Nepinak said their family is numb with shock. Her a 15-year-old nephew and a 10-year-old neice know they must mourn the loss of their mother. But without a body, that's hard to do, she said.

"Serial killer... that word gives me chills down my spine," Nepinak said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think a serial killer would do that to my sister."

Shawn Cameron Lamb was charged Monday in the deaths of three aboriginal women, Nepinak, Carolyn Sinclair, 25, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18.

A vigil, to be led by Manitoba's grand chiefs, will be held on the front steps of the legislature tonight at 7 p.m.

Nepinak disappeared last September, her second-cousin Sinclair vanished three months later in December and the youngest, Blacksmith, went missing a month later in January.

Amanda Sinclair said she feels relief that her sister's killer has been caught, but remains deeply puzzled why the killer targeted her sister and the other two women.

"Why was it those three women?" Sinclair said. All had ties to the northern Cree First Nation of Pukatawagan, but only Carolyn Sinclair came from there.

Amanda Sinclair said she always suspected a serial killer in the murders and disappearances of other aboriginal women.

Family members of Blacksmith were in a back alley Monday near the Simcoe Street home where the 18-year-old's body was found last week.

Margaret Hart, who said she considered Lorna to be a niece, said Winnipeg is a dangerous place for aboriginal girls.

"My grandmother used to always tell us not to bring her to the city. It wasn't a good place for us to grow up," Hart said.

At a press conference the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called Monday, Lorna's mother, Lorraine Blacksmith, collapsed in tears as First Nations leaders vowed to press the province for an inquiry into the deaths of all missing and murdered aboriginal women in Manitoba.

AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak characterized past police response as slow and unco-ordinated, and said while he thanks the police for the arrest, there are root causes behind the violence that go back years. Until they're addressed, he said, nothing can change.

"I think all this is taking too long. For generations we've seen our young women come to urban environments for opportunities that haven't been there. Our people are living like refugees in our own cities," Grand Chief Nepinak said.

National estimates put the number of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada at about 600.

There are more than 70 in Manitoba.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper vowed there will be vigils until the province agrees to hold an inquiry into the fates of all Manitoba's missing and murdered aboriginal women.

"This travesty has to stop," Harper said.

 

-- with files from Aldo Santin and Gabrielle Giroday

alexandra.paul @freepress.mb.ca

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