On this day, 47 years ago, Helen Betty Osborne, a 19 year old woman from Norway House, Manitoba, was kidnapped and murdered by four young white men. It took 16 years to bring them to justice. The town in which the men lived and where Helen died, The Pas, Manitoba, knew who was responsible for her murder. It took 16 years to bring them to justice. Only one of her killers, Dwayne Archie Johnston, was convicted of her murder. He has since been released from prison. Helen Betty Osborne was 19 years old. A young woman, who was simply attending school in The Pas. It took 16 years to bring her murderers to justice. But still, in the end, there was NO justice. A formal apology from the government of Manitoba was issued by Gordon MacIntosh, Manitoba’s Minister of Justice, on July 14th, 2000. The province created a scholarship in Betty’s name for Indigenous women. It took 16 years to bring her murderers to justice. All of them are free today. Meanwhile there are over 1800 Missing or Murdered Indigenous women in this country — in Canada — my late Aunty among them. I dream of the day when our missing are found, and our stolen are given justice. I dream of the day when it is safe for Indigenous women to exist in a county — on our own lands — without fear of violence or losing their lives. In the meantime, I can only imagine Helen is Spitting A Mouthful of Stars. She is laughing more than those who despised her. She is walking beyond the Milky Way. She is new to her bones. She is holy in their dust. Hug your daughters, your mothers, your granddaughters, your grandmothers, your aunties, your sisters, your nieces and cousins today. It took 16 years to bring Helen’s murderers to justice. They walk free today. Helen walks among the stars, and tonight we should all look skyward and inward.
The death of an indigenous woman in Thunder Bay is the latest in a series of violent incidents affecting the local indigenous community. As the police ponder whether to charge her assailant with murder, many are wondering if the force has what it takes to pursue justice for all.
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