Local News

Charges stayed against manslaughter suspect, family of victim in ‘shock and disbelief’

Family of a northern Manitoba woman who died after she was assaulted last year are speaking out after charges were stayed against the man accused in her death.

Noreen Tait was attacked Feb. 19 last year in O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN), RCMP said, and airlifted to Winnipeg, where she died two days later in hospital.

Police said the suspect was arrested on March 6th and was charged with manslaughter. Manitoba courts said the charge was stayed Nov. 29.

At a press conference hosted by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) on Monday, Arla Tait-Linklater, Noreen’s older sister, said the development was an emotional blow to the family and community.

“This has reopened the wounds of our loss and has left us in a state of shock and disbelief. We’re desperately seeking justice and closure,” she said, adding she has been left with more questions than answers.

“How are we supposed to be able to grieve? We understand that the legal process and systems can be complex and difficult to navigate,” she said, “but we appeal to authorities and to the justice system to ensure that every effort is made to bring those responsible for Noreen’s murder to account.”

Tait-Linklater said her heart aches for families of victims who have suffered similar fates.

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“We will not rest until the truth is revealed and justice is served. Not just for Noreen, but for all the victims of such horrific crimes,” she said.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and MKO said Noreen’s death is a reflection of systemic challenges faced by Indigenous women and girls, and lacking resources.

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the political advocacy group will stand by the family and community. “We are here to support them, to ensure that justice is served.”

He said “I think there is something wrong when we continue to see this victimization of our people, and I think we have to fix this problem. Violence against Indigenous woman and girls continues to be a troubling issue, and it demands urgent attention.”

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said the stayed charges may be on account of “a conspiracy of silence.” She said, “When people do not come forth and they have every right, and they have a responsibility, to come forth with something that they are very much aware of.”

A provincial spokesperson said, “The evidence (provided) was insufficient to prove this accused had the exclusive opportunity to commit the unlawful act in question.”

Tait-Linklater said she urges people to, “Come forward and assist law and first enforcement in the pursuit of truth and justice.”

She said, “We believe that there are individuals who possess crucial information that could help shed light on this heinous crime.” The family also acknowledge that they know the accused at the press conference.

Chief Shirley Ducharme of OPCN said she’s still hopeful there will be accountability in this case.

“We must come together and demand immediate action and resources to prevent further tragic incidents like this from reoccurring,” she said.

Ducharme echoed Tait-Linklater’s note of the need for closure. “That’s the only way people can heal properly.”

“Noreen was much more than just a statistic. She was not just a number, but a deep tragedy that has left a lasting scar on our hearts,” Tait-Linklater said. “We will continue to mourn the loss of our beloved Noreen.”

Tait-Linklater said her little sister was “a vibrant, loving and caring person who touched many lives.” She said her favourite song was Travelling Soldier by the Chicks, and that “she loved singing and had a beautiful voice.”

“She also loved to laugh,” she said.

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