‘Tanya is whole’

Fi­nal re­mains of mur­dered Mi’kmaq woman re­turned to fam­ily

Cape Breton Post - - News -

The fi­nal re­mains of a mur­dered Mi’kmaq woman have been re­turned to her fam­ily, eight years af­ter Tanya Brooks’ body was found out­side a Hal­i­fax school.

Brooks’ sis­ter Vanessa Brooks, 43, said po­lice had with­held her brain as part of the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the still-un­solved mur­der.

She said it was re­turned to the fam­ily Wed­nes­day, and a smudg­ing cer­e­mony was con­ducted with in­ves­ti­ga­tors and mem­bers of vic­tim ser­vices and the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice.

“I don’t think there’s any way that I can pos­si­bly ar­tic­u­late just how mon­u­men­tal this is ... to our fam­ily,’’ she said at Hal­i­fax po­lice head­quar­ters on Thurs­day, eight years to the day af­ter her older sis­ter’s body was dis­cov­ered nearby.

Read­ing from a state­ment on be­half of her fam­ily, Brooks said it was im­por­tant that her sis­ter be buried “whole,’’ but she stressed that they also did not want the re­mains re­turned if it was go­ing to jeop­ar­dize the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“In Mi’kmaq cul­ture, in or­der for our spir­its to rest, our whole body needs to be as one,’’ she said, chok­ing back tears and clutch­ing a feather in her right hand.

“With yes­ter­day’s events, Tanya is whole again, which was our mother’s last wish be­fore her death in Septem­ber 2015. On be­half of our mother, it’s an hon­our to have Tanya com­plete so that she can re­turn home (to) be laid to rest and our fam­ily can be­gin to heal.’’

In­ves­ti­ga­tors did not say why Tanya Brooks’ brain was with­held for eight years.

The 36-year-old woman was found in a trench along the side of St. Pat’s Alexan­dra Ele­men­tary School on May 11, 2009.

Po­lice say she was known in the area and they were able to trace her move­ments un­til about 9 p.m. the night be­fore, when she left po­lice head­quar­ters on Got­tin­gen Street, near the school.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they be­lieve Brooks knew her as­sailant and that there are wit­nesses who have not yet come for­ward.

Vanessa Brooks pleaded for those wit­nesses to “break your si­lence.’’

“We ap­peal to them to do the right thing. Please,’’ she said, paus­ing to com­pose her­self. “We hope that lay­ing Tanya to rest in the weeks ahead might also be the mo­ti­va­tion needed to give some­one the courage to come for­ward to the po­lice.’’

Brooks said her sis­ter will be buried with her mother. She was a mother, daugh­ter, sis­ter, aunt and friend, her sis­ter added.

“She was artis­tic. She had a very beau­ti­ful gift of draw­ing that her son has in­her­ited,’’ said Brooks, look­ing to­wards her sis­ter’s 15-year-old son, Qualin Brooks.

“She had the gift of po­etry. She was kind. She would give the shirt off her back if she felt you needed it more than she did.’’

Brooks also praised in­ves­ti­ga­tors and vic­tim ser­vices for their work.

“Our fam­ily is proof that a strong, re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship can ex­ist be­tween the fam­ily of a mur­dered in­dige­nous woman, the po­lice and other key play­ers in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into your loved one’s mur­der or miss­ing per­son case,’’ she said.

CP PHOTO

Vanessa Brooks, left, is com­forted by Const. Dianne Pen­found as she ad­dresses the me­dia on the eighth an­niver­sary of the mur­der of her sis­ter, Tanya Brooks, in Hal­i­fax on Thurs­day. Au­thor­i­ties have re­turned the rest of Tanya’s re­mains to her fam­ily which al­lows them some clo­sure in their or­deal.

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