In death, three women shine light on Manitoba’s epidemic of missing natives

Monday, September 7, 2009
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

All three of them, as children, were hooked on crack cocaine and locked into a life spent selling themselves for money, drugs, food, shelter and the illusion of protection they couldn’t get anywhere else.

All spent years bouncing around Manitoba’s foster-care, youth-correction and child-welfare systems, from one program for at-risk minors to another.

And all were found dead, their bodies dumped on the outskirts of town. No one has been charged in their deaths, two of which have so far been declared homicides.

Cherisse Houle, Hillary Angel Wilson and Fonassa Bruyere, the teenage girls who have become the face of Winnipeg’s epidemic of missing and murdered young aboriginal women, have a lot in common. And they have become, quite literally, on police press releases and bulletin boards across the region, poster children for systemic failure in child welfare and police investigations – what a Manitoba cabinet minister calls a “state of emergency” for the region.

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