The impacts from the residential school experience are seen in the interactions of the witnesses and potential suspect Jack Little in which their experiences structure how their relations with the police and responses were. The case of Alberta Williams murder was steeped in issues that far exceeded those that seemed to just bubble to the surface.
Alberta Williams was murdered along the highway of tears, her murder remains unsolved, and a tip from a former lead investigator in her case Garry Kerr, makes way for an investigation that not only opens it up to more evidence, but opens up many First Nations issues with policing. Many other issues come forth, including those surrounding residential schools, over policing, racialized policing and intergenerational survivors.
Residential schools were created to assimilate the First Nations peoples; through taking away their children and putting them in places where their culture and language were ripped from them. Many children suffered horrific abuses in these places, many who were completely traumatized for life.
These traumas affected them deeply and how they raised their children, as well as the coping strategies they had themselves as parents. These traumas were then in a sense transmitted through down to their children, who then became intergenerational survivors.
Those who had experienced parenting from residential school survivors as well as abuse and neglect that in turn affected how they coped with life themselves.Over policing and racialized policing are issues that are seemingly evident in Alberta Williams case; showing how the relations between the First Nations peoples and police at the time were and the mistrust for the police by the First Nations people.
Alberta Williams was murdered and her killer was never brought to justice; Connie Walker an investigator for CBC goes on an insightful journey through Alberta’s life and brings about even more questions about the investigation and new theories. Connie Walker got her investigation tip from a retired officer named Garry Kerr. Garry was actually Alberta’s lead investigator at the time, he emailed he knew who the killer is.
Alberta Williams was murdered in 1989 in Prince Rupert, BC at the age of 24 years old; she went missing from a bar called Bogey’s. From the bar, Alberta was never seen again.
Alberta Williams was murdered in 1989 in Prince Rupert, BC at the age of 24 years old; she went missing from a bar called Bogey’s. From the bar, Alberta was never seen again. In 1989, Alberta had returned to Prince Rupert simply to make some money and work at a fish cannery; having come down all the way from Vancouver, where she had been attending school.
At Bogey’s Alberta had been quite intoxicated and had been surrounded by people she knew her friends and family. The last thing she mentioned was that she was going to an after party and was never to be seen again. 3 weeks after Alberta’s disappearance, her body is found near the Skeena river outside of town off the highway of tears. It looked like a violent, horrible struggle in the way she was murdered. The first suspect was Jack Little, who was Alberta’s uncle, he was married to her mom’s sister Rosie Marsden.
Alberta had mentioned to Claudia that she would be attending a party after the bar, which turned out to be at her uncle Jacks home. Jacks wife Rosie and her son were at that time in Gitanyou to attend a party for her mother; which is Alberta’s grandmother. Jack later appears at the party and according to those at the party, he seemingly appears nervous, by then everyone knew Alberta was missing and is questioning him about it.
Shortly after Alberta’s disappearance, uncle Jack left town quite quickly; seemingly due to either harassment by the police or the family itself. At the party in Bogeys, the night of Alberta’s disappearance. Alberta’s close friend Geraldine says that her uncle Jack was acting very strangely that night at the bar. He was quite possessive of Alberta and acting almost like a boyfriend. He would be watching her and asking her what she was doing when she went outside, which according to Geraldine seemed quite suspicious.
Connie Walker wants to investigate Jack Little further, she attempts this by finding his home and confronting him. However, he is unresponsive and in the end gives her his lawyers number and refuses to answer any questions regarding Alberta.
That night at the party there was also Jack Little’s nephew named Brad Marsden. Who was staying in the spare room at Jack’s house, he was Alberta’s cousin; as her mom and his dad were brother and sister.
Brad is a facilitator who gives workshops that are focused on the issues from residential schools. Residential schools were horrific, thousands of indigenous children were taken from their homes; stripped of their language and culture and were forced into a culture they didn’t understand. The goal was total assimilation of the Indian and many children experienced horrific physical and sexual abuses at these schools. These schools affected many generations of families. Brad Marsden explains how he is an intergenerational survivor, in which his father was a residential school survivor.
This means his attitudes, beliefs and behaviors are shaped by previous residential school survivors. Who then pass down those behaviors to their children then affecting them. The fear and anger from the residental school survivors; which then translate into how new generations were treated.
This is important because that is when Connie Walker realizes more about her own past and then finds out that Uncle Jack is actually a residential school survivor himself. Uncle Jack had mentioned a man a blonde haired Caucasian man; that was in a black truck that the police officers had initially brushed aside. But as Connie discovers there is more to this. She discovers Yvonne and Amanda, Alberta’s cousins both had seen Alberta in a black truck with Uncle Jack and a man possibly Ken Collinsion; when she had stopped by their home. This is another key piece of evidence as it brings up the fact that Uncle Jack was not lying about a black truck, it was not made up and it belonged to Ken Collinsion; who was a taxi driver at the time and still is.
Connie also interviewed Ken Collision, going to his home. However, he denied ever being involved with Alberta, or ever going to pick Alberta up. At this point, Connie finds out Ken had been requested to give a DNA test. However he declined to do so and it has been several years since he was asked. It is at this point they illegally obtain his cigarette bud to do further DNA testing themselves. They do get around to this testing, however it doesn’t really prove anything as there is no available DNA to compare it to, or at least any that they would have access to.
Connie Walker’s investigation brought forth to light mysteries in Alberta’s case, that may have never come forward. Including witnesses who didn’t trust the police and further information the police at the time had ignored. In the end, Alberta’s case brought forth many issues, including those related to racialized policing, residential schools, intergenerational survivors and how to stay resilient against the face of all this adversity.
Residential schools were created to assimilate the Aboriginal children into English speaking Canadians, however the horrific abuse they suffered at these schools deeply affected them for the entirety of their lives. In Canada, Aboriginal children were separated from their parents and sent to residential schools, where the goal was to assimilate the children and take away their culture and identity.
The minister of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott said that in his policy in 1920 the goal was the following; “Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body of politics.” The main reasoning behind this policy was to assimilate all the Aboriginal peoples in order to not only destroy the Indian but to make it so there would be no need for reserves, treaties and obligations anymore.
The federal government partnered up with the churches in order to run the residential schools, a partnership that stayed in place all the way to 1969. For the children, the residential schools were a nightmare. The food was poor, the school building was inadequate and poorly heated and the teachers were very harsh and strict as well an abusive.
For example, in some residential schools they were ordered to eat rotten macaroni. The food was so terrible, that many children went hungry for days and child malnutrition even death was very common. These preventable deaths and the children that disappeared, were nowhere near the vision of perfect residential schools that would through proper care and guidance foster members of Canadian society.
They were punished for speaking in their native language despite the fact they didn’t understand what was being said to them in English. This was the reality for First Nations children in residential schools, until they were finally able to learn English.
These children were to be converted fully into Europeans by their dress and mannerisms; as their culture was seen as savage and superstitious. The police at the time were the ones who were involved in forcibly sending these children to residential schools and to send those who had run away from residential schools back.
Thus, many First Nations peoples had a huge distrust of turning to the police for help, this distrust was then passed onto their children. In the Truth and Reconciliation mandate (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) they wanted to ensure that, “There is an emerging and compelling desire to put the events of the past behind us, so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future; truth of our common experiences will help set our spirits free and pave the way to reconciliation.” The truth and reconciliation was to address many of the issues the First Nations peoples have endured in the past, including residential schools.
Residential schools deeply affected not only those who survived the schools but affected the next generations to come. Who then became intergenerational survivors that had their views and self-worth shaped by the attitudes of those survivors and affected how their relations with the police were.
The residential school survivors suffered greatly and the trauma for most of them had scarred them for life; this scarring continues onto other generations, as it continues to be transmitted through each surviving generations. As adults they felt that residential schools had adversely affected the parenting they received from their parents and more so the parenting their own parents received from their grandparents.
Those that had attended residential schools were more likely to experience depression; thoughts of suicide and anxiety related traumas. So for example, the parent may have attended residential school; in their childhood they faced many abuses and traumatic events that affected how they grew up and coped with life. This then in turn leads to the second generation having parents who are neglectful, abusing drugs and alcohol, and live in a house where dysfunction is the norm.
They learn from their parents poor coping strategies, have poor mental health and learn these poor parenting strategies; that are then used on their own children. Those experiences of childhood have huge impacts on the way they cope with future stressors and the way they handle situations in their adult lives.
Some suggestions of helping intergenerational survivors and residential school survivors have been healing practices, that promote better coping strategies and policies focused on the impacts of traumatic early life experiences. For the future, the government needs to gather more statistics in Canada on First Nations peoples and trauma as well as doing more empirical studies on the effects of residential school survivors on their children. From these studies, they must implement better policies and strategies to help those that have been affected and help them better cope. The intergenerational survivors are stuck in a cycle of abuse and neglect that is seemingly passed on from those who attended residential schools; a cycle that will break in further generations.
Over policing/Racialized Policing
Over-policing and racialized policing of the First Nations has been quite evident in the past and contributes to the mistrust First Nations peoples have towards the police.
The over-representation of First Nations peoples in jail are evident and this may be due to the poverty and type of lifestyle they are exposed to. This was also seen in Connie Walkers evidence, as many of the people she had talked to had never come forward before. I believe this was due to the fact they did not feel comfortable speaking to the police. This was based on their experiences of the police not really doing anything about previous cases but also the prejudice they felt the police had against them, as Gerry Kerr pointed out it was an, “Us against them mentality.”
It was also noted in Connie Walker’s investigation that Garry Kerr had never thought much of the black truck and the blonde Caucasian man, that Jack Little himself had pointed out as a lead. They vehemently believed Jack Little was the killer and largely ignored this crucial piece of evidence. Again, pointing to the fact that they didn’t see Jack Little as having any credibility compared to a Caucasian person. For the future, I believe that racialized policing will hopefully be a thing of the past, as police officers have further sensitivity training and less complacency.
The witnesses and new information that come about from Connie Walker’s investigation are people who fear the police and mistrust the police. This relationship with police has been formed from previous experiences with the police fromresidential school survivors and intergenerational survivors.
In the end Alberta Williams case was far more than just about finding her killer. It opened up the talks for discussing and really analyzing issues that underlie the relationships between the First Nations peoples and the police.
It also showed how much the residential schools affected not only the people who attended those schools but also how it affected their children and the way their children dealt with life situations as adults.
For the future, the government must implement better policies and strategies to deal with the traumas the First Nations peoples have faced and they continue to face with generation through generation. They will also need to work on improving the broken relationship between the police and the First Nations to help build trust and respect between the two.