Violence has become so common in our society that when it happens, no one bats an eyelash. That is until it happens to an innocent two-and-a-half-year-old baby boy.
The disgusting feeling people in Eeyou Istchee have in their stomachs is the disbelief that something like this could happen so close to home.
On February 8, Trevor Eric Spencer, 28, is alleged to have beaten little Khayden Otter of Waswanipi so bad he was found unconscious and had to be airlifted to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Spencer, who was one of Khayden’s foster parents, has since been charged with aggravated assault and is currently being held in Amos. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 9th.
Spencer has a previous conviction for assault in his former hometown of Winnipeg in 2001. He moved to Waswanipi within the last year from Manitoba to meet and marry a local woman. He was left to care for Khayden in his new wife’s foster home.
Ronnie Otter, Khayden’s grandfather, recounted the time when he received the terrible news: “My wife and I got a call from a social worker to say hurry up, something has happened to Khayden. The doctors and nurses worked on him for about an hour and a half trying to revive him. He had intravenous in his arms, and an oxygen tube in his nose. We started calling around to relatives to let them know what had happened.” At the time Khayden’s mother, Judy Otter, was babysitting in Sudbury and trying to get into night school.
Otter said that the day he got to the hospital, the little boy’s brain was so swollen they had to remove part of his skull so the swelling could go down. Once it goes down, they will then re-attach the skull and sew the skin back into place.
He also said that Khayden had been trying to communicate to the family with his eyes. “They aren’t wide open, but they’re open,” said Otter. “He’s improving a little bit; he’s a little fighter. We just keep praying for him.”
On February 12, another test was done and the news was very sad. The doctors informed both families that Khayden’s brain was severely damaged, and if he woke up, he would not be the same little Khayden anymore.
“We were all shocked, a lot of us got emotional and cried. We all sat together and prayed for Khayden to pull through,” Otter said.
The family has been told to keep massaging his limbs in hopes of getting the feeling back.
On February 22, doctors removed the tube in his head and reduced his antibiotics. Little Khayden Otter was fighting to see his family again.
The next day a therapist came in and started to help Khayden along by moving his arms and stretching his legs up to his chest. This is something they will do daily until he wakes up.
Khayden was slated to undergo an operation February 25 to sew up some of the skin around his skull. This will be done to prevent the brain from being infected more than it already has.
There was a huge outpouring of emotion and support for the boy when every community in Eeyou Istchee decided to stage a “walk against violence” on his behalf.
Eight of the nine Cree communities marched February 18 in support of this brave little boy. Ouje-Bougoumou marched the following day.
The turnout in each community was phenomenal. For many of the communities it seemed like everyone participated. Money was also raised to go towards expenses for the family while they’re in Montreal with Khayden.
“I just want to thank all the communities for their prayers and everything they’re doing to fight against child abuse and child negligence,” said Khayden’s grandfather. “I wonder how a two-and-a-half-year-old boy can affect so much love and prayer from so many people. [Because of this incident] a lot of people started to look at their kids and remember what they have,” Ronnie said. “I’m sure he’ll get better, I’m sure he’ll walk out of that hospital.”
The support was tremendous, said Daniel-Mark Stewart, the representative for Eastmain and the vice chairman on the Cree Board of Health and Social Services. He estimates that in his hometown of Eastmain, there were roughly 350 to 400 people who turned out to march. Considering Eastmain’s population is around 650 people in total, he speculated that the only ones who didn’t participate were the elders and infants.
The amount of time each walk took varied in every community, but Eastmain’s walk lasted an hour and a half on that Wednesday afternoon.
Many people in Waswanipi wore yellow ribbons to show their love and support for Khayden.
Mark-Stewart says the idea to have the “walk against violence” came when Waswanipi’s Chief, Robert Kitchen, notified the band councils of the other eight communities that Waswanipi was going to be staging a walk in support of Khayden. When he heard about it, Mark-Stewart and some of his friends decided that this would be “a step in fighting against violence.” From there, his group started sending out communiqués to let people know about their plan to have the walk simultaneously in every community. He also went on the radio to promote the idea. The support from each community was awe-inspiring.
“A lot of people felt angry and were in disbelief,” said Mark-Stewart. “They were very saddened by the news; there were a lot of mixed emotions.”
Mark-Stewart says that more needs to be done, and the walk is just the beginning. “A lot of people are going to try to take measures to prevent this from ever happening again. Perhaps even look at a policy that each community would have where there would be a background check on people that come in and out of Eeyou Istchee. If they’re going to be working here, especially with kids, we can at least do a background check on them.”
“Hopefully we’ll learn from this and it’ll never happen again. I think there should be a community-driven process established, and it should mention that violence will no longer be tolerated, especially towards young kids,” he said.
The Otter and Rupert families would like to thank the nine Cree communities as well as Moose Factory and Moosonee for all their prayers and financial support for Khayden. They would also like to thank the Waswanipi police, social services, and the doctors and nurses who have done and continue to do such a great job.
The Nation would like to issue an apology for the brief about little Khayden Otter that appeared in the last issue.
We would like to apologize to the Police, Social Services, Khayden’s father, Tony Rupert, his foster mother Charlotte Ottereyes and his mother Judy Otter and the rest of the Otter family.
All of the staff at the Nation are thinking of Khayden and hoping and praying that he gets better.