In this edition of Pulse of the Nation we talk to several women from some of the communities about Khayden Otter Rupert’s tragic incident back on February 8.
The Nation asked these people how it affected them or their communities. Here are some of the comments these women made.
Sandra Webb from Chisasibi said, “I felt anger when I first heard it. If you’re put in care of a child you should do as much as you can to protect that child from violence and not take away the innocence of that child even if you’re not the biological parent.
I feel that Khayden did open many people’s eyes on violence against children not only in the Cree communities but everywhere.”
Daisy Herodier, from Chisasibi: “It really hits you hard emotionally when you know a child is suffering. And you think how can this happen to a child, you start asking questions, it’s trauma on that child and he will need a lot of love to overcome that in his or her life. He’ll need a lot of support and love. Yes, it breaks your heart when you hear children are going through that.”
Florence Hester from Waskaganish: “When I first saw Khayden I felt joy, that he was a miracle from God. I felt that God did everything for him already and we, people, thank God and celebrate for his miracle.”
Lily Sutherland from Waswanipi: “Everyone prayed in their own way so little Khayden would recover from such trauma. Later he showed the communities he recovered physically and then visited the communities. To have a healthy future, I think it is time for First Nations people to prioritize child and sexual assault.”
Joanne Atynia from Wemindji: “We should break the silence. Being abused can take a lot from a child. It can rob away your childhood memories and block out the good times you spent with your close family.
I was drawn to the Khayden story from the day I heard it. I would listen to the local radio, the Montreal radio, and the regional broadcasting for Ronnie Otter’s updates on Khayden. Even my children would ask me ‘how’s Khayden?’ I am glad to have met Khayden. It was a pleasure to welcome him in our community.”
Kathleen J. Wooton, deputy chief, Mistissini: “It is now nine months since we first heard of the tragic event that befell Khayden Otter Rupert. The news of this assault on Khayden affected all of us. Many people including myself, found it difficult to comprehend it.
What this assault on Khayden, a mere baby, did was to shock and awaken us from our complacency towards violence. What saddens me most is that it took this violent act against Khayden to bring us to the realization that violence, child abuse, has no place in our Cree communities.
Why did it have to take for this tragic event to us to the realization that all the Cree communities needed to do something in order to resolve the issue of violence in our communities?
This tragic event brought the members of the Cree Nation together to speak out against violence and bullying, I think we have to go beyond just organizing community walks against violence. Violence is an issue that we as leaders and members of our communities can no longer sweep under the carpet or pretend it does not exist.
We now must all accept responsibility to ensure the safety of all children and other members of our community. Physical abuse, whether it affects a child, a teenager, a woman, an Elder, or an adult should not be tolerated in our communities.
Out of this tragedy, we have received two gifts from Khayden. First is the realization that life is precious; a child is a gift of life from our creator and one which we must all treasure. Khayden’s second gift is hope. My hope is that if we work together we can eradicate violence in our communities. No child, woman or man or elder will ever have to go through the experience Khayden did. I hope that we never forget this event and that my community will continue in its work to stop violence against children and other members of our communities.”