Watch the video above: Marlene Bird walk honours missing and murdered aboriginal women
SASKATOON – It’s a crime that garnered national attention. A homeless woman was horrifically assaulted and so badly burned that doctors had to remove her legs.
In her honour, a walk took place on Wednesday in Saskatoon. As people marched for Bird, they paid tribute to all missing and murdered aboriginal women.
On June 1, 47-year-old Bird was found in a parking lot in Prince Albert, Sask. by a person collecting bottles. At the time, doctors only amputated one leg but later removed the other, as it was burned to the bone.
On Wednesday, Bird remains in an Edmonton hospital recovering from her injuries.
“She improving greatly, she’s able to talk and be able to blink her eyes and be able to communicate with people and also she’s starting to realize what has happened in terms of she’s lost her legs,” said Eldon Henderson, honour walk committee member.
The disturbing reality is the victimization rates of aboriginal women are five to six times higher than mainstream Canadians, according to Clive Weighill, chief of Saskatoon police.
The degree of violence involved in this case has been horrifying to many including police.
“I always feel really disturbed in my gut when I hear about situations like this, that we live in a community where aboriginal women are so dehumanized and almost deemed dispensable,” said Monica Goulet, aboriginal relations consultant for Saskatoon police.
“I wish that it would stop.”
“You don’t usually see that kind of violence perpetrated against a person so I think it’s important as a police service that we speak out, we show our support and do everything we can to help the cause,” said Weighill.
In late June, 29-year-old Leslie Ivan Black was charged with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault in connection to the attack. His next court appearance has been scheduled for July 16.
“The family is really relieved in terms of the suspect being apprehended and being charged and brought through the court process,” said Henderson.
On Tuesday, a provincial court judge lifted a publication ban on Bird’s name at the request of the family and the victim.
“We cannot lose interest of what happened to this lady, as soon as the person is picked up everyone will focus on that one, we cannot forget Marlene, we have to support her,” said Maria Linklater, who 40 years ago lost her sister to violence.
“My sister got beaten up in the streets, many, many years ago and she died as result of it, we never knew who did it,” said Linklater.
Once discharged from the University of Alberta Hospital, it’s expected Bird will continue her therapy in Saskatoon.
Anticipating the cost of her after-care, the walk’s organizers say money is being raised at both the Prince Alberta YWCA and the Montreal Cree Nation.
So far, approximately $13,000 has been raised on her behalf.