‘If you mur­der some­one, you shouldn’t be al­lowed out’

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - NATIONAL NEWS - KEVIN BIS­SETT

MONC­TON, N.B. — The mother of a 16-year-old Abo­rig­i­nal girl mur­dered in north­ern New Brunswick made an emo­tional plea Tues­day to the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls — Canada needs tougher laws.

“If you mur­der some­one, you shouldn’t be al­lowed out,” Pam Fil­lier said at the start of two days of hear­ings in Monc­ton, N.B.

Fil­lier’s daugh­ter, Hi­lary Bon­nell, dis­ap­peared from Esgenoopetitj First Na­tion on Sept. 5, 2009, trig­ger­ing an ex­ten­sive search that gripped the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity.

The girl’s 32-year-old cousin, Cur­tis Bon­nell, was ar­rested on Nov. 8, 2009, and led po­lice to her burial site the next day. He told po­lice he sex­u­ally as­saulted Hi­lary and killed her. He was later con­victed of first­de­gree mur­der, and sen­tenced to an au­to­matic life sen­tence with no chance of pa­role for 25 years. Fil­lier said the pain doesn’t go away. “It doesn’t end when you bury your child. It just starts an­other kind of pain,” she said.

Fil­lier said she wants tougher laws to pun­ish peo­ple who com­mit such crimes.

“If we don’t get tougher laws, these mon­sters keep get­ting let out. That’s an­other child in dan­ger,” she said.

Later in the af­ter­noon, Fil­lier and her hus­band Fred ap­peared be­fore the in­quiry to speak about Hi­lary’s death in de­tail.

When Hi­lary went miss­ing, she said, she al­ways felt she would be found. Then she re­ceived the dev­as­tat­ing news.

“She was a won­der­ful lit­tle girl,” Fil­lier said as a slideshow of pic­tures of Hi­lary played in the back­ground.

The po­lice were re­luc­tant to search for Hi­lary, only start­ing af­ter Fil­lier took her story to the me­dia, she said.

How­ever she stressed po­lice even­tu­ally were very help­ful and shared in the grief.

She called for tougher laws that would deny pa­role for con­victed mur­der­ers.

“My lit­tle girl can’t come home. He should never be al­lowed to go home,” she said cry­ing.

A video pre­pared by friends of Hi­lary and posted to so­cial me­dia dur­ing the search was shown to those at­tend­ing the Monc­ton hear­ings, and Fil­lier said it was im­por­tant to her that peo­ple could view it.

“I need peo­ple to see what a won­der­ful lit­tle girl she was,” Fil­lier said.

The fam­ily left the room while the video was shown, and a num­ber of peo­ple in the au­di­ence could be seen cry­ing.

Com­mis­sioner Michele Audette said the emo­tional sto­ries from fam­i­lies across the coun­try are a “gift” to the work of the in­quiry.

“They’re telling us all their ex­pe­ri­ence. They know what was felt by them or didn’t work for them, and they know what needs to be changed,” she said.

Much of the day was spent hear­ing from a Knowl­edge Keep­ers panel — three elders who de­tailed the his­tory of Indige­nous peo­ple in New Brunswick and Prince Ed­ward Is­land and is­sues that have arisen, par­tic­u­larly the loss of sta­tus by Indige­nous women who mar­ried non-Abo­rig­i­nal men.

“The loss of sta­tus is loss of com­mu­nity,” said Judy Clark, adding that Indige­nous men mar­ry­ing non-Abo­rig­i­nal women kept their sta­tus.

Imelda Per­ley, a mem­ber of the Red Shawl Cam­paign, said that treat­ment has put up walls that need to be re­moved.

The in­quiry is ex­pected to hear from at least 35 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a youth panel Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

“It’s very im­por­tant that we hear from the youth — not just the im­pact, but what are they rec­om­mend­ing for a bet­ter Canada?” said Audette.

Most of the pre­sen­ters will pro­vide their sto­ries in pri­vate.

The fed­eral govern­ment set up the in­quiry in De­cem­ber 2015 to ad­dress the high num­ber of miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls.

The com­mis­sion­ers be­gan the in­quiry in Septem­ber 2016 and were hop­ing to is­sue a fi­nal re­port by the end of 2018, but the com­mis­sion is widely ex­pected to ask for a dead­line ex­ten­sion.

More than 700 peo­ple have shared their sto­ries with the in­quiry so far.

AN­DREW VAUGHAN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pam Fil­lier is sup­ported by her hus­band Fred Fil­lier at the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls in Monc­ton, N.B., on Tues­day. Fil­lier’s daugh­ter, Hi­lary Bon­nell, was found dead two months af­ter she van­ished from the Esgenoopetitj First Na­tion in 2009.

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