More than 200 people came from all over Manitoba to honor the life and legacy of a Cree woman who was attacked and brutally killed 50 years ago.
Family, friends, lawyers and politicians gathered in The Pas, Man. to visit the site of the former residential school where Helen Betty Osborne went, go to the site where her body was discovered, and pray for her.
In the early morning hours of November 13, 1971, Osborne, the 19-year-old from Kinosao Sipi Cree Nation, was abducted and killed while walking after a night out in the northern city with friends.
It took the RCMP in the northwestern city of Manitoba, about 520 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg, months to discover the names of the four men involved in Osborne’s abduction and murder, and it took 16 more years before just one of the four men became convicted.
“Systemic racism and apathy are what led to 16 years of silence before justice was brought to Helen Betty Osborne, and looking at the end result in that case, I mean, justice was never really served,” Renee said. Kastrukoff. one of the organizers of the memorial event.
“If it had been, we probably would not have had this conversation.”
Fifty years later, Kastrukoff feels that not much has changed.
Although one national investigation was completed by missing and murdered native women and girls two years ago and 231 calls for justice were published, she worries that there is still so much apathy and systemic racism that people are being motivated to adopt them.
“We need to keep moving forward so that our children and daughters in particular are not victims of things like the conspiracy of silence,” Kastrukoff said, referring to a book about Osborne’s killing of Lisa Priest, which said it was unresolved for so long because of racism, apathy and a conspiracy to remain silent.
The memorial service hit home for Kastrukoff because there are four missing and murdered native women and a missing man in the area where she is calling home, and very few answers.
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The Weekend Morning Show (Manitoba)7:00Helen Betty Osborne commemorates the 50th anniversary of her murder
Eighteen-year-old Ballantynes bil remains were found more than two years ago and her family is still seeking answers.
Josephine Martin, 58, has still not been found after being reported missing in 2015.
Amanda Bartlett from Pimicikamak was last seen in Winnipeg in 1996, but was not classified as a missing person by Winnipeg Police until 2008.
Elizabeth Dorian from Opaskwayak Cree Nation disappeared from a fishing camp in Manitoba in 1999, and the family is not sure if her case is open or closed.
And 18-year-old Morris Linklater from Opaskwayak Cree Nation has not been seen since September 2020.
“It’s still happening right now. And the fact that it’s 50 years later, it’s traumatic,” Kastrukoff said.
Important work to perform
Among those present at the Osborne Memorial were Churchill-Keewatinook MP Aski, Niki Ashton and Manitoba’s Family Minister Rochelle Squries and Native Reconciliation Minister Alan Lagimodiere.
“The 50th anniversary of her death is a grim reminder of the important work that lies ahead to promote reconciliation and healing,” Lagimodiere said at the event on Saturday.
He said the province is helping to build on the work already being done at the grassroots level.
The province is also taking steps in line with the 231 calls for justice, including funding for community events, and recognizes October 4 as the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and People with Two Spirits; and amending the law on the path to reconciliation with the calls for justice at the center.
Although the memorial event brought up pain and trauma from many different sources, Kastrukoff said the event was primarily about Osborne.
“She was loved, and she is loved,” Kastrukoff said.
“She had a bright future ahead of her and she never got a chance to realize her dream of becoming a teacher. She never got a chance for the opportunity to have her own family if that was what she would choose to do. Those choices were taken from her. “
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