WINNIPEG – Speaking softly but firmly, Rinelle Harper stood in front of a crowd of hundreds Tuesday and asked for an end to violence against women.
“As a survivor, I’m respectfully asking all to call for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women,” Harper told an Assembly of First Nations meeting.
The 16-year-old was left for dead last month after police say she was viciously sexually assaulted by two men. She ended up in the Assiniboine River but crawled out, only to be beaten again.
Prior to Harper’s brief speech at the Assembly of First Nations, the teen was presented with an eagle feather for strength, one of her culture’s highest honours. She later asked everyone to remember the importance of “love, kindness, respect and forgiveness.”
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper said Rinelle was reluctant to speak at first but the elders have asked her to view it as a “gift.”
“They said ‘Speak for those who cannot,’ ” said David Harper, who is related to the girl.
The teen said she looks forward to going back to school.
She moved to Winnipeg to finish high school, as most northern communities don’t have schools that go past Grade 10.