Betty Rudachyk accepts cheque from Karen Daniels Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By: Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder
On Jan. 5th, Karen Daniels. a mother and grandmother from One Arrow First Nation, came to Good Neighbours Food Centre to present a donation in memory of her daughter, Monique. This is a very heartfelt gesture, and she invited an opportunity to have media coverage as she wants to do something meaningful in her daughter’s memory and to draw attention to the whole issue around missing and murdered Indigenous women. “She’s not a woman of tremendous financial means and yet she had this in her heart and her mind that she wanted to honour her daughter’s memory and her daughter’s kindness,” Betty Rudachyk said.
As a single parent with five small children on Social Assistance, Karen Daniels used to come to Good Neighbours Food Centre, and Monique used to come with her to pick up a food hamper. Monique would tell her, “Mom don’t worry, I’ll handle things.” She would jokingly tell her mom she was getting old, and that she needed help. Monique would take the grocery hamper out to the vehicle and then come back in and help any elders who happened to be there and could not carry out their groceries. She was always ready to help others. She had a good heart and was just a caring, loving person.
Just over a year ago, on November 29, 2022, 24-year-old Monique Gamble was found deceased by her mother, Karen. Harry Paul, whom Karen identified as Monique’s common-law spouse, was charged with second-degree murder and the case is still proceeding through the courts. Karen shared that her grandson, the couple’s three-year-old boy, was in the residence when she arrived and is now in her care.
Karen shared there was a history of abuse in the relationship, and Monique, in addition to working at the community’s youth centre, a job she was very passionate about, had also been attending school but had dropped out shortly before her death. When asked if her common-law spouse was the reason behind her dropping out, Monique had indicated to her mother that it was.
As part of the presentation, Karen shared a letter she wrote to her late daughter on the one-year anniversary of her passing. “One year of longing to hear your laugh, craving our meaningful conversations, and a year of missing your hugs,” it started.
The letter shared the heartbreak of a mother who has lost her daughter and friend. In the natural order of things, parents should not be burying their children and the devastation that accompanies can cripple a person, but Karen chooses to live like her daughter did. She wants to live with the passion that Monique did, to love with the depth and generosity that Monique did, to see life as a gift no matter how hard it is, and to cherish and carry with her the good memories of Monique forever.
While not a day goes by without some pain and some sadness, Karen says Monique has taught her more than she ever thought possible. Because of Monique, she learned that becoming a mom is the greatest privilege of all, and while nothing in life is permanent, love, patience, and gentleness are still possible.
Still feeling pain, anger, fear, and dread, Karen has experienced sadness to an extent she did not know existed as she has struggled to bring meaning to her daughter’s life and her death.
Good Neighbours Food Centre is a place tied to fond memories of her daughter and the donation is a tangible good that can be carried out in Monique’s memory, but it was also a chance to bring more awareness to the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. As former Chief of One Arrow First Nation, Tricia Sutherland noted about Monique, she was always keen to be involved in raising awareness of people and issues that needed to be heard. If Monique’s story can touch one young girl or woman and help her avoid becoming a statistic, then she has left a legacy worth leaving.
Karen shared that there was a history of dominant control in Monique’s relationship. Her common-law spouse did not trust her to be with anyone and would wait outside her work. Karen recognized the dangerous patterns she saw developing as she had experienced them herself, the difference being that she was able to break free. Karen’s tribute brings Monique into the present. She was a beautiful person with a beautiful heart and the gift presented in memory of her will be transformed into another form of beauty in the serving of people that GNFC feeds.
Phoenix Counseling and Wellness donated another $1000 in support of Karen and the journey of healing she is on and in honour of Monique’s life. It takes great courage and strength to do what she has done. To open the vulnerable and painful side of oneself to others is no small feat. The takeaway should be that this could happen to anyone. Intimate partner violence is not restricted by race, age, or gender. The rate of intimate partner violence in Saskatchewan is double the national average. According to a 2022 Statistics Canada report, Saskatchewan had the highest provincial rates of police-reported family violence in the country with 730 victims per 100,000 population, and intimate partner violence (IPV) at 732 per 100,000 population. Awareness of the reality of the problem will not change those stark statistical numbers, but awareness of the problem coupled with an awareness of the warning signs can. Stories such as Monique’s and Karen’s, which put faces to the numbers, and show the “humanness” of the victims and their families, can be the one thing that tips the balance and helps someone to step away from an abusive and potentially dangerous relationship. “Hopefully,” Tricia Sutherland said, “what Karen has done and is doing by talking about this will help people not only in One Arrow but also throughout the entire region. Never be afraid to ask for help. There is always someone there.”
Going forward Karen would like to be able to support others who have family members who are dealing with interpersonal violence, which are dealing with domestic violence. How do you support them? Often they are too scared to leave, and telling them to leave does not help. So, what can one do? What can be done to support people, is to just be there with them…listen to them. “We have to meet people where they are… not where we want them to be,” stated Corie Sander of Phoenix Counseling and Wellness.
Statistics can only tell part of the story, but they tell an important part that cannot be ignored. For many Indigenous women, exposure to violence begins in childhood. Many more Indigenous women (42%) than non-Indigenous women (27%) indicated that they had experienced physical and sexual abuse before they turned 15 (Heidinger, 2022b). As many as 4,000 Indigenous women and girls are believed to have been killed or gone missing in Canada over the past 30 years – although the true number of victims is unlikely ever to be known. (The Guardian, Dec. 2, 2022) Between 2009 and 2021, the rate of homicide against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women and girls was six times higher than the rate among their non-Indigenous counterparts and most Indigenous women and girls were killed by someone that they knew (81%), including an intimate partner (35%), acquaintance (24%), or family member (22%). Yet, Police were less likely to lay or recommend a charge of first-degree murder – the most serious type of homicide charge – when the victim was Indigenous (27%) compared to when she was not (54%). Instead, charges of second-degree murder (60%) and manslaughter (13%) were more common. (www150.statcan.gc.ca)
When will the protection of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited be taken seriously? It’s been four years since the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released 231 calls for justice. Those calls for justice tackled 18 areas in need of reform, including education, justice, and health. As of June 2023, only two of the 231 calls have been completed, and more than half have not even been started, according to a CBC analysis. (https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/features/cfj-report-cards/cfj7) Past inquiries and investigations in Canada – from the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to the Truth and Reconciliation Report to the Final Report from National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – have put forward over 900 wide-ranging recommendations to deal with many of the underlying issues. Many have never been applied.
Given that both warning signs and abuse can start appearing within the first few months of relationships, interventions should be directed toward people who are single or newly dating to make responding to concerning behaviors as easy as possible.
From a mother to her daughter… “We think about you always, we talk about you still, you have never been forgotten, and you never will. We hold you close within our hearts and there you will remain…until we meet again. Loving always…”
The following community-based organizations receive funding to provide family violence outreach services: Family Service Saskatoon Ph: 306-244-0127 Fax: 306-244-1201; La Ronge Native Women’s Council Inc. Ph: 306-425-3910; North East Outreach & Support Services Inc. Ph: 306-752-9464
Toll-Free Crisis Line 1-800-611-6349; PARTNERS Family Services Inc. Ph: 306-682-4135