MMIWG in Montreal: Algonquin woman shares grief over missing siblings
Published Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:07PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 14, 2018 7:49AM EDT
An Algonquin woman originally from Abitibi recounted her family's painful past involving a sister and brother who both went missing as the inquiry for murdered and missing indigenous women and girls continued Tuesday in Montreal.
Midway through her testimony, Francoise Ruperthouse was overcome by emotion, as her community quickly came to her side to offer support and comfort.
“It does me good to denounce what my parents and the rest of the family was forced to live through,” she said, as she shared their story.
In the 1950's, her toddler brother and young sister were both taken to a hospital near their home in Abitibi, months apart.
They were then both transferred to a hospital in Baie-Saint-Paul, hundreds of kilometres away. The family was not told where they were.
“Why did they hide them, and what did they do to them?” she said her mother asked.
After a few months the family was told the boy, Tony, had died – but his body wasn't returned. They only recently learned Tony had died in hospital five years later, at the age of seven.
Ruperthouse said she searched for her sister Emily and found her 30 years later, when Emily was 37. She said the doctor told them Emily would not know them.
“She recognized my mother immediately then the first word she said was ‘Mom,” recalled Ruperthouse, who said her parents didn't have any help finding their children.
They didn't speak French or English, felt powerless and didn't know where to turn. They lived with guilt, grief and anger all their lives, she said.
“One thing I want the government to do is to apologize to all of the families who have suffered this pain and anger, they violated the family,” she said.
A commissioner at the inquiry Tuesday pointed out that they do have a mandate to continue to ask questions, to make the government and institutions accountable for what's happened to indigenous families, adding that child protection is a priority.
The inquiry continues Wednesday.