Canada 3 sisters, 3 violent deaths: Family tells their stories at Thunder Bay MMIWG hearing

10:06  05 december  2017
10:06  05 december  2017 Source:   cbc.ca

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3 sisters, 3 violent deaths: Family tells their stories at Thunder Bay MMIWG hearing: Mitaanjigamiing First Nation Chief Janice Henderson testifies on Monday at the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls hearing in Thunder Bay.<br />© Provided by CBC Mitaanjigamiing First Nation Chief Janice Henderson testifies on Monday at the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls hearing in Thunder Bay.

Their names were Edith Quagon, Kathleen McGinnis and Sarah Mason.

They were sisters and they died violently.

The family of the three women testified Monday afternoon during the first day of hearings in Thunder Bay, Ont., by the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

"I miss my sisters a lot. Right now there is just my big brother and myself that is left," said Mary Napawance.

"I am trying to be strong for everybody in my family because I am like a mom and a dad to my nieces and nephews."

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About 10 family members — the children, the grandchildren — sat together to testify about the deaths of these three sisters. And like the ties between Indigenous nations cross international and provincial boundaries, so do each of their stories. Each of their deaths contain the different trajectories of the tragedies that led to the creation of the inquiry.

'This is karma'

Quagon was killed in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1978. The man accused of stabbing her in the heart walked free after a jury found him not guilty of second degree murder, according to a report in the Toronto Star.

The family testified that they believed a strike at the forensics lab, which delayed the trial, played a role in the man's acquittal.

Quagon's daughter, Mitaanjigamiing First Nation Chief Janice Henderson, testified that the man who was charged in the murder died years later of heart complications.

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"This is karma," said Henderson.

Henderson read out a letter to her mother.

"Hello mom. I love you. This is Janice your daughter.... I wanted you to know that first of all, I am OK.... I have lived my life as best as possible without you, without your guidance and unconditional love," said Henderson, who also attended residential school and was swept up in the Sixties Scoop.

"On Nov. 13, 1978, my world was further shattered when I received the call about your murder."

Died trying to find son

McGinnis, the second oldest sister, was found dead on a highway near Calgary in 1978.

Her daughter Diane Geissler testified that her mother was hitchhiking from Thunder Bay to British Columbia because she heard her son, who had been taken along with Geissler as young children by a child welfare agency, had been adopted out in the province.

Geissler testified that she and her brother were taken from their home in Manitou Rapids, one of two reserves that make up Rainy River First Nation, while McGinnis was out getting groceries in nearby Fort Frances, Ont.

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"I was immediately adopted out to a white home," said Geissler.

Geissler and her brother were part of the Sixties Scoop.

Geissler said she didn't know the identity of her biological mother until about 1991 and found out about her death after she saw her mother's name on a list of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

Killer sentenced to 5 years

Mason, the youngest of the sisters, was killed by a knife wound through the heart on Valentine's Day 1993 by a man she had lived with in Thunder Bay.

Napawance said when she first met the "Frenchman" she thought he was a "nice guy." She said she didn't know he was "abusive to my sister."

The Toronto Star reported that Jean-Claude Gagne pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced by a Thunder Bay judge to five years.

Henderson said she would be putting her name on a motion expected to be tabled this week in Ottawa at the Assembly of First Nations annual special chiefs assembly to extend the mandate of the inquiry, which is set to expire in December 2018.

She also asked the inquiry to help the family get an apology for the forensics lab strike they think led to the acquittal of the man the family believes killed Quagon.

The Toronto Star reported that the accused killer, Robert Timberlake, died in March 2014.

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