Sexual abuse and vanishing babies in Pakuashipi


November 29, 2017

By Tom Fennario

Agnes Poker is a mother many times over and at Tuesday’s hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) she testified about the children she has lost.

“I had eight children in all, four in the tent, four in the hospital,” she told the commissioners. “If all of my children had been born in the tent, everything would have gone well for me, because then I would have seen them die with my own eyes.”

Poker was referring to how in the early 70s children in her Innu community of Pakuashipi would be airlifted from to Blanc Sablon, Que., near the northeastern border with Labrador.

Twice they did not survive

“I speak often to my lost children,” she said. “I would like to know where my two children are laid to rest. Every time I go to Blanc Sablon I go to the cemetery to try to find my children.”

But Poker said she doesn’t even know where her children are buried.

She testified that the hospital also refused to let her arrange or attend any funeral.

“This summer we went to an archaeological dig [in Blanc Sablon], and we said ‘if you find any children bones let us know’,” said Poker.

Christine Lalo, also from Pakuashipi, had a similar experience with the health services in Blanc Sablon.

“When they died we were never given an autopsy report, only many years later we went back and only then did we find out what happened,” Lalo testified.

Tuesday afternoon’s testimony also touched on other difficult subjects that plagued the Innu territory 1,200 km northeast of Montreal.

Topics included a forced relocation of the community and a priest who was a sexual predator.

“We were at the church and I went to confession and I had to kneel before him on the ground and often the priest would invite us to sit on his lap and often he would say ‘I’m your father’ and I would try to give my confession, but when you’re young you don’t have much to say,” said Mary Mark, who chose to be sworn in by an eagle feather as opposed to a bible.

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