‘THIS HAS TO STOP’: We have to look out for each other, says mother of murder victim at vigil

·4 min read

A family and a community came together this week to grieve for a woman who was murdered, while this city comes to grips with news that three Indigenous women have been victims of homicide in just the last three weeks alone.

A vigil on Marlow Court in the Maples neighbourhood of Winnipeg on Tuesday evening brought hundreds together to mourn and remember the life of 31-year-old Tessa Perry, who police say was the victim of a homicide on May 26.

A large memorial for Perry grew during the vigil, as hundreds laid down flowers, candles and other mementos to remember her life, while many at the vigil, including family members, wept and consoled one another.

Perry’s mom Angie Perry, who spoke to the crowd on Tuesday, said through tears that she is still finding it hard to process that her daughter is gone, and that she was a victim of violence and murder.

“When the RCMP came to my door and told me that Tessa had passed, I didn’t expect to hear homicide, no parent expects that,” Angie said. “It’s the hardest thing for someone to die from domestic violence, because it took away someone dear to us, a mother, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend, and she was just an awesome woman.”

And while she mourns the loss of her daughter, Angie is also asking that anyone that is being abused or mistreated, or who knows someone they think may be in an abusive situation immediately reach out for help, and reach out before it’s too late.

“To the ones that are still on this earth today, just get help and get to a safe place,” she said. “And I just ask that people look after each other, and look out for one another.

“This has to stop.”

Winnipeg Police said Perry, who is a mother to four children, died after being assaulted on Marlow Court near Inkster Boulevard. Her unconscious body was discovered by police in the area on May 26, and Perry later died in hospital as a result of her injuries.

Justin Alfred Robinson, 29, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection to Perry's death, and also on a count of failing to comply with a probation order.

Perry is now the third Indigenous woman to be killed in Winnipeg in just the last three weeks, as on May 16, Rebecca Contois, 24, was found dead in North Kildonan, and then on May 19, Doris Trout, 25, was found dead in an apartment lobby on Kennedy Avenue, in downtown Winnipeg.

A long-time advocate for the safety of Indigenous women and girls Hilda Anderson-Pryz, who helped to organize Tuesday’s vigil, said she is an aunt of Perry and hopes that her niece is remembered for much more than being a murdered Indigenous woman.

“She was a bright, beautiful light,” Anderson-Pyrz said. “Her smile was contagious.”

She said she is also sad for the four children that Perry now leaves behind, because she knows how much their mom loved them, and cared about them.

“She went to university, she wanted to build a really secure pathway for her children, her children meant the world to her,” she said.

Perry is sadly now one of thousands of Indigenous women in Canada that has been murdered or gone missing in the last few decades.

Anderson-Pyrz said the three recent homicides in Winnipeg of Indigenous women show that the 231 individual Calls for Justice that were directed at governments, institutions, and all Canadians in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are not being properly implemented and acted upon here in Manitoba or across the country.

“It diminishes hope that there has been change,” Anderson-Pryz said. “We had the National Inquiry, and we have 231 Calls for Justice that it is imperative that governments now act on, and three years later we are still seeing violence against Indigenous women.

“We need all government’s, including Indigenous governments to act on the 231 calls.”

Anderson-Pyrz said she believes that if governments do not take more steps to keep Indigenous women and girls safe immediately, more will fall victim to violence and murder.

“We have the right to safety, and change must come,” she said. “Governments have an obligation to act, and to stop the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women and girls in this country.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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