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Revolving Door: Rally Opposes Release of Sex Offender Targeting Aboriginal Girls

Relatives and friends stand in solidarity to keep Martin Tremblay off Vancouver streets

by Sandra Cuffe Original Peoples

Aboriginal youth and women rally at bail hearing of sex offender Martin Tremblay. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Aboriginal youth and women rally at bail hearing of sex offender Martin Tremblay. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
UPDATE: Vancouver Police Department released this photo of Martin Tremblay on February 11th, 2011.
UPDATE: Vancouver Police Department released this photo of Martin Tremblay on February 11th, 2011.

Also posted by SandraCuffe:

Relatives and friends of the growing number of Aboriginal teenage girls speaking out about their survival of drugging and sexual assault by Martin Tremblay rallied outside the Vancouver Provincial Court at Main and Hastings once again last Thursday, February 3rd.

Currently in custody facing drug charges, Tremblay's bail hearing was postponed again and is currently scheduled for February 16th. Tremblay was arrested along with several others in a January 2011 sweep by the Vancouver Police Department's 'Project Rescue.'

Both 'Project Rescue' and 'Project Tyrant' targeted some of the people who are allegedly some of the city's most predatory and violent drug dealers. While the VPD reports that the arrests are the outcome of their outreach with some Downtown Eastside organizations, the police and courts face ongoing criticism for their failure to protect Aboriginal girls and women from sexual and physical violence.

"This place is bullshit: revolving door. He'll probably get out within the next couple of months, 'cause that's the way it is," said Hank Bee in an interview with the Vancouver Media Co-op outside the doors of the Vancouver Provincial Court at 222 Main street.

"I hope our message gets through to the federal government and the provincial government to tell them the people are now finally speaking up instead of sitting back, hoping for the worst. That's what we do at these hearings. That's all it's about," explained Bee, who had come to the rally from the interior to represent the family of his niece Kayla Lalonde, who was murdered last year.

In December 2003, Tremblay was convicted for five counts of sexual assault against young Aboriginal teenage girls. However, he was released from custody the following year, after serving only a fraction of his three-and-a-half year sentence.

Over the last year, several Aboriginal teenage girls have spoken out to the police and the media denouncing Tremblay for drugging and sexually assaulting them since his release. A white francophone man in his mid-40s also known by youth as "Uncle Martin," "Frenchie," and "Dad," Tremblay has reportedly been preying on young Aboriginal teenage girls in East Vancouver for years, luring them to his home with promises of free alcohol and drugs.

Some statements also revealed detailed accounts of times when Kayla Lalonde and Martha Hernandez were also at Tremblay's residence. Details of a 2009 incident when Lalonde survived a sexual assault by Tremblay while she was unconscious and woke up naked at a bus stop downtown were also publicly revealed to the media by another 17-year-old Aboriginal teen who also shared details of her own survival of a sexual assault by Tremblay.

On March 2, 2010, 17-year-old Martha Hernandez died from a lethal dose of drugs and alcohol inside Tremblay's home in Richmond. That same morning, 16-year-old Kayla Lalonde's body was discovered on a street in Burnaby. Forensic evidence determined her cause of death to be a similar lethal dose of drugs and alcohol.

"I don't know why we haven't heard that, you know, he's up on any charges [related to the sexual assaults or deaths] yet," said Aboriginal Front Door volunteer Bobbi O'Shea, who also told the Vancouver Media Co-op that she personally knows nine Aboriginal teenage girls who have been sexually assaulted by Tremblay.

"I feel failed by the system," continued O'Shea. "I'm sorry, but if it was a white person from the West Side, and a Native person who victimized them - one person, and they would have been locked up, case closed. But because it was on the other foot, it's like, who cares?"

According to a Justice for Girls press release on the day of his sentencing on December 4th, 2003, Tremblay had originally been charged with 18 counts of sexual assault and administering a noxious substance to five Aboriginal girls between the ages of 13 and 15. Then 38 years old, Tremblay admitted to sexually assaulting and videotaping the girls while they were unconscious in his home. He was sentenced to three and a half years in custody and 18 months probation.

"We are disappointed with the sentence but not surprised by it because the courts rarely treat violence against Aboriginal teenage girls seriously," stated Justice for Girls advocate Annabel Webb in the December 2003 press release.

"What is shocking however is the degree of racism and sexism that is tolerated in the defence of men who commit sexual offences against Aboriginal girls," continued the statement by Webb.

Media reports indicate that Tremblay did not in fact serve his entire sentence and was released in 2004. Although Justice for Girls advocated for his sentence to include restrictions against contact with minors, their motion was not accepted. Police refused to issue a warning upon his release, and Tremblay has not been included in the Sex Offender registry in Canada.

Media reports also indicate that between his release in 2004 and his arrest on drug charges in 2011, Aboriginal teenage girls legally in the custody of the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development were living with Tremblay in a house on Pender Island. Not long before his 2011 arrest, a Richmond housemate told CTV that Tremblay was planning on moving to Montreal.

"Two girls are dead," said O'Shea, her voice shaking with rage and grief.

"It's very sad. I'm a parent. When you look at another parent who's Aboriginal, and their child is dead because of this man, and he's going to get out of jail? It's despicable. It's disgusting. I don't know what to say to them but to cry, because it's so heartbreaking," expressed O'Shea, tears sliding down her cheeks and mixing with the rain on Main street.

"At first the police thought they were dealing with two separate cases, but it turned out to be the same case. And, at the time, one of the girls was actually my girlfriend," young urban Aboriginal community member Steven told the Vancouver Media Co-op after the rally.

"We came down today, we brought out drums to get our voices heard," added Steven, still hoping for justice almost one year after the murder of his girlfriend and friend.

"When this guy gets prosecuted to the full extent of the law, that's when we know our girls will be safe again. That's when we'll know it'll be just this much safer, just to get that one guy off the streets again. That's what I look forward to here," added Steven.

The statements made by relatives and friends of the young women reportedly sexually assaulted and murdered by Tremblay echo the voices of many others from Vancouver's Aboriginal community, First Nations around the province, and Downtown Eastside (DTES) women's organizations.

The inaction of police forces and government agencies in the face of startling numbers of missing and murdered women in British Columbia and across the country is being highlighted in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry this year. Commemorative events are also currently going on around the city, leading up to the 20th annual Women's Memorial March on February 14th in the DTES, only two days before Tremblay's scheduled bail hearing.

"March 2nd will be one year [since the murder of Kayla Lalonde and Martha Jackson Hernandez], and that's when we'll have our very first celeration, when I come out of mourning for the first time. It's a long process," explained Bee.

"Keep him in jail forever, because that door does stop eventually. That's what we want to see is it stop, for him and people like him in the future," Bee added.

"It has to stop. Now." said O'Shea, as the rain continued to fall in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. "You have to show these youth, these Native youth, that they mean something, that they're not throwaways. And that their people didn't die and nothing happened."

 

Sandra Cuffe is a contributing member of the Vancouver Media Co-op and currently lives in the Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood, in unceded Coast Salish territory.

A video edited by VMC contributing member Masrour Zoghi of the interviews conducted on February 3rd can be viewed on the Vancouver Media Co-op website here. The VMC is covering some of the events related to the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (see recent article and video posts), and will also be covering the 20th annual Women's Memorial March on February 14th in the DTES. More background information on many of the issues addressed in this article is available on the websites of local groups Aboriginal Front Door, Justice for Girls, and many others.

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Commentaires

Sad realities.............

This is so sad and I get really angry!

One wonders when this will end?

This is a glaring example of how ridiculous the so called justice system is in this colonized oppressive land. 

As difficult as it is to read and reflect on this, i truly appreciate the effort put into this story Sandra. 

Thank you so much for such an awesome in-depth work on this important ongoing story.

Tami Starlight - VMC Editorial Collective 

 

 

 

Thanks Tami

Much appreciation to you as well, for all your work with the VMC, with community organizing in the DTES, and with everything else you do too. :)

Walking for Justice Feb. 14th, 2011 in Montreal

Thank you Sandra for creating more an awareness of such inustices.  I am shocked by how the justice has failed these youths and their families. I am shocked that this tyrant is not listed under the sex offenders list...

I am a mother....a youth counsellor and I am simply appalled.  I will be joining for the march on Feb 14th in Montreal and hope to get more involved and especially voicing the intolerance of the apathetic our justice system....Tremblay must be held accountable for his crimes but as well our criminal justice system needs to be responsible to the population, to these youths, to their families

 

Cheryl-Lynn

Concerned citizen

 

Thanks

Thanks for your comments Cheryl-Lynn. Tremblay is behind bars for a while longer on drug charges, and so many girls and women have now come forward that it seems like the police have been forced to investigate further and act in the face of such overwhelming witness and survivor statements.

Fantastic article!

Thanks for putting in the effort.

Thanks & you too!

The video is great! I edited in a link to it at the very end, along with links to other VMC coverage and the local groups I refer to in the article. :)

ACT NOW

this makes me so fucking angry. 

i just hope that the message will get through that we can't wait another century to formally apologize for the mass murder of our precious sisters. 

 

To get the message through

Hi Jadis,

Yeah, that was the hardest and most brutally heart-breaking article I've ever written. Thanks so much for commenting.

Some of the organizers of the Women's Memorial March in the Downtown Eastside had some clear ideas about how to get the message through: media stepping up and investigating the issues and covering them; men stepping up and speaking out about the issues and the role of men; and the general public stepping up and actually listening and actively supporting the women, girls, families and communities facing an ongoing crisis situation on a daily basis.

Sandra

Thanks so much for this

Thanks so much for this article Sandra.

Once the support structures for these assholes are removed, they'll fall.  The power is with the people.

Thanks

Thanks for commenting!

UPDATE: VPD release photo, ask women to come forward

The key statement is the one by Dean Robertson, which is the second of three statements in this link. The photo (edited today into the above piece) is also released on that same page.

Excerpt from VPD statement, February 11th, 2011:

We know the community is very concerned about this criminal.

Even though he is in jail now, we believe the only way we can guarantee that he won’t harm more women is if he stays in jail.

In order for that to happen, we are taking this extraordinary measure of putting out his picture in hopes that other people who can give us information that will help our investigation will be able to recognize him and come forward.

We believe it’s necessary to put out his picture because he goes by different names.  He has used Daniel Simard and changed his name from Martin Tremblay to Joseph Walter Martin Tremblay.

News reports about the VPD statement are also already up CBC, CTV, etc.

- Sandra

Feb 15th update: Tremblay to prison on drug charges

Today, one day after the 20th annual Women's Memorial March in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Martin Tremblay was sentenced to 11 months in prison (one year minus time served) for two counts of drug-related charges.

The Vancouver Police Department still requests that any other survivors come forward, in order to mount a case against Tremblay regarding the sexual assaults. The VPD also said that if young women or girls are afraid to talk to the police, they may speak to Aboriginal Front Door director Mona Woodward.

Click HERE for a link to the article in The Province.

- Sandra

Everday

Why do we all wait, for a system that fails us at every turn, to be accountable for keeping our young girls safe? Or anybody for that matter? Why do we look to the police who humiliate, beat, incarcerate, tortue and rape girls to protect them? Why do we demand things from such a sick gang as opposed to becoming a stronger community and forcibly evicting scum who would destroy so many lives? When will we be accountable for what goes on and stop asking it of others to deal with? Especially those clearly uncapable of doing whats right. When will we be brave? When will we come together and fight for our lives? When will we be free of our own victimization of ourselves? When will we realize our potential to control and organize our own lives and communities without the help of violent gangs? Until we do this the same cycle will repeat as it has for countless years....and only we are responsible...not the police inaction, not the governments passive laws....us. Because they do what they always do...gain and keep power, and we must do what we would be doing if they werent dominating the power to act. Were responible....dont shift blame.

Clarifications about the anonymous sweeping "us all" statements?

Hi "A"

If possible, it would be great if you could identify yourself in some way, which does not necessarily mean leaving a name. Those kinds of comments coming from someone who is totally anonymous and gender-unidentified make them easy to potentially mis-interpret. For example, a Toronto police officer recently made comments that are actually along similar lines to what you write when he was telling young women that to avoid sexual assault, they should avoid dressing like "a slut."

You write "don't shift blame" - where do you think the blame lies? Specifically where is it being shifted from? Because from your comments, it is not clear. Do you include the teenage Aboriginal girls who were drugged and sexually assaulted and/or found dead as all responsible as well?

When you say "we" it is difficult to understand because you leave your comments anonymously. Who do you mean when you say "we"? I don't agree that all of humanity is equally responsible in the same way. We are not all in the same position, we do not all have the same experience, we do not all face the same oppression, and we are thus not all equally responsible. An analogous argument would be telling everyone including Indigenous people that we are all equally responsible for colonization and racism - more oppressive than logical, in my opinion.

"When will we be brave?": The girls, women, relatives and friends standing together, fighting for their lives - to use your words - and speaking out about intensely personal, traumatizing, and horrific experiences and the institutionalized racism and sexism not only within the police and judicial system but also within the prevailing attitudes of the media and the general public are, in my opinion, extremely brave.

Whether or not they demand justice from the police or governments, women's organizations, Aboriginal organizations, and others in the Downtown Eastside and beyond have been speaking out and organizing on in many ways and on many levels for decades.

There are predators preying on, drugging, raping, and killing Aboriginal girls and women in the Downtown Eastside. Historically, most of these predators are white men who are not from the Downtown Eastside. So when you write "don't shift blame," where do you think the blame lies?

"Violence against women will stop when men stop it." - Angela Marie MacDougall, one of the Women's Memorial March organizers, at a press conference the morning of February 14th.

- Sandra

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