July 10, 2020

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Fox Lake residents' shocking testimony

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/8/2018 (687 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IN January, a delegation of 12 Fox Lake Nation elders, youth and leaders travelled to Winnipeg to testify about decades of alleged abuse at the hands of Manitoba Hydro crews, who reportedly turned Gillam into a "hell hole" for Indigenous people.

Here are excerpts from testimony before the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission, from its report on the effect of hydro development in the north:

Mary Beardy is an elder in her 60s. She related what life was like for Fox Lake women 40 years ago.

"And when we talk about the sexual abuse we went through, I can name a few men that I can put behind jail right now that abused me... There is no statutory limitation on that now, not like before... when the person is passed out, there is new laws on that, too. You never gave your consent for anybody to help themselves while you’re sleeping," she said.

"You can put that person behind jail for that. Did you give him (a) yes? No, you didn’t, because you’re sleeping and that person is helping themselves. That is a criminal offence against the women."

Franklin Arthurson started working for Manitoba Hydro in 1962 in Grand Rapids, and moved to Gillam when the utility transformed Fox Lake’s home territory into a hydro company town.

One of the then-few Cree-born employees of the utility, Arthurson was from Norway House and married a woman from Fox Lake. However, he still described himself as one of "invaders" Hydro sent north.

"As an outsider looking into the Fox Lake community, to the town of Gillam, I seen the damage that was being done to Fox Lake. I was an outsider looking in. I was there to do a job; there was nothing I could do," Arthurson testified.

"You had thousands of men chasing a handful of women. Like Sophie (Fox Lake elder Sophie Lockhart) said earlier, ‘They plied us with alcohol, they got us drunk.’ How would you feel, man, if you had hundreds of men chasing you as a young girl? Wouldn’t that do something to you years later? Wouldn’t that cause trauma?

"And how would you think as a parent, as a mother or a father, to know there was hundreds of men after your daughter for only one reason, for one reason? Back then, you had to be there three months, 90 days, to get a day off," he said. "I was there 90 days before we could leave for a week. And I don’t know what you people know about construction workers, they’re a hardy lot, they drink hard, they live hard. And they all chase women.

"Think of it this way: you live in Winnipeg, you got your own house, you got three daughters you’re bringing up. And all of a sudden 200 of us from Gillam, Fox Lake, young men walk into your house, invade your house and start molesting your daughters. And there is not a damn thing you can do about it. You can go to the RCMP, and they tell you, we’re not doing anything wrong."

— Alexandra Paul

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