The harrowing story of the brutal rape and killing of a baby in foster care rocked the final day of hearings of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Mani-Utenam, near Sept-Îles, Que., on Friday.
The seizure by youth protection authorities of that baby in the 1980s and a young girl two decades later, both from Kawawachikamach, a Naskapi community northeast of Schefferville, Que., added another layer of suffering and loss to a harrowing week of testimonials from Innu families.
Kawawachikamach is one of the most remote Indigenous communities in Quebec, 525 kilometres north of Sept-Îles, and a half-hour flight due north of Wabush, NL.
Because the Naskapi children were taken into foster care, their identities are protected by law, so their families cannot be named.
One mother recounted how her daughter was placed in a foster home shortly after she was born in the 1980s.
She said less than a year later, the child was killed by the foster parents’ son.
“He raped her first. And then he killed her,” said the mother.
According to the family, the man received a two-year prison sentence for his crime.
The child’s aunt, who also testified, said the night before the child died, she showed up at the foster home where her niece was living, unannounced, and demanded to see her niece.
She acknowledged she had been drinking.
She said the family called police.
“She probably heard us when we screamed out her name,” the aunt said. “She was probably happy in her heart.”
Family loses track of 2nd child
The aunt said 20 years later, her brother also lost one of his children to youth protection authorities.
The young girl has not been seen since, she said, and the family has not received any news of the child’s whereabouts.
“Nobody has written. Nobody has talked to us,” she said.
The girl’s father has since died, and the aunt said she is now intent upon finding her niece.
“I would like to have some help. What my sister went through, I don’t want to go through the same thing,” she said.
She said the girl’s grandfather, now 83, wants to see his grandchild.
“If only we could visit her,” she said.
Over the course of this week’s hearings, several other witnesses have criticized the way the province’s youth protection services work, suggesting customary adoption should be the norm and not the exception.
In October, the Quebec government modified its Youth Protection Act, which now calls for children to be ”entrusted to a member of his extended family or of the community” when possible.
MMIWG moves on to Thunder Bay
On Thursday. the adoptive mother of an Innu teenager who was kidnapped, held captive and savagely tortured for weeks in 2011, recounted how police dismissed her daughter’s disappearance as a runaway case.
And Wednesday, women from Innu communities along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River shared their stories of being sexually abused by a once-lauded Catholic priest who worked in their territory for four decades, until his death in 1992.
The inquiry’s hearings began in Whitehorse in May, and proceedings have so far taken place in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Hearings are scheduled for Thunder Bay, Ont., and Nunavut next month, and for Yellowknife in the new year.
The planned stop in Rankin Inlet in December has been postponed and will now be held in January, CBC News has learned.
The commission confirmed this week that there will be hearings in Montreal, although the date has not been set.