RCMP identify 17 victims in child abuse investigation on Manitoba First Nation
Published Thursday, May 23, 2019 12:16PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 23, 2019 7:00PM EDT
Two men have been charged following an RCMP investigation which found 17 victims of child abuse on a Manitoba First Nation.
Police say several children between the ages of 3 and 15 were victimized by two men between 2011 and 2017 in the Garden Hill First Nation, a fly-in community located about 500 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
Paul Bruce Harper, 21, has been charged alongside a 20-year-old-man, whose name is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, with multiple counts of physical and sexual assault.
Lucy Harper, 66, has also been charged with perjury and failure to report a child in need of protection, and failure to provide for a child in need of protection.
Paul Bruce Harper and the unidentified man remain in custody, while Lucy Harper has been released with conditions, and is no longer a foster parent.
"These are absolutely horrific allegations and we take this extremely seriously and we'll continue to work with our partners to ensure the safety of all children," Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stefanson told CTV Winnipeg.
The abuses first came to light after RCMP received three complaints between December 2017 and June 2018 that led to a full-scale investigation.
Investigators discovered that the accused had access to Lucy Harper’s residence, which served as a foster home for numerous children in the community, identifying 150 children who had contact with them.
During the extensive 11-month investigation, police worked with Child and Family Services to interview and assess the children – finding 17 victims.
RCMP say the investigation is still ongoing, as they look for any other children who may have been victimized.
"We recognize the possibility that there may be more children who have been victimized and are urging them to come forward and to speak with our investigators," Superintendent Michael Koppang said.
"We recognize that calling the police is an extremely difficult step to take but I want to assure anyone who is thinking of coming forward that our officers are professional and compassionate and will work with victims to explain every step of the process."
Counselling is being provided for members of the community, as well as for the police force members who worked on the investigation.