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Politics ᐊ ᓃᑳᓂᔅᑭᑭᓂᐧᐃᒡ ᐊᐱᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Taking on the blue wall

BY Ben Powless Dec 1, 2022

An Indigenous woman is suing the police force in London, Ontario, alleging three officers sexually assaulted her for years and that police failed to investigate or stop the abuse. 

Elaine Antone, 67, of the Oneida Nation of the Thames, alleges in her lawsuit that two offices began abusing her when she was 12 and that the incidents continued for 18 months. She alleges that another officer began to abuse her when she was 30, with that abuse continuing for five years. 

The lawsuit names three officers, including Brian Garraway and Keith Bull, who have died, and Edward Lane, who retired. The civil lawsuit seeks $6 million in damages for Antone and $4 million for her two daughters, who she says were fathered by Lane.

In a 2018 statement to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Antone detailed her life story, including statements of the abuse suffered by police, including receiving child support from an unnamed officer after paternity tests showed the child was his. 

Representatives for the London Police Service said the police force would not comment, as the matter is the subject of ongoing litigation. 

Antone’s lawyer, Joseph Fearon, said that the police had previously had opportunities to intervene, including when Antone was 12 and discovered in Garraway’s car by another officer who she believed didn’t initiate an investigation, but rather called Garraway’s wife. 

“Given that my client was 12 years old, there should’ve been a fulsome investigation,” Fearon said. “The same officer is on court transcripts trying to become her legal guardian, which would have been horrible but that wasn’t allowed.”

Antone said she first reported the abuse officially to the police and Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in 1994 when she was worried one of the officers may have been harming other women, according to court documents reviewed by CBC. 

According to those documents, the lawsuit alleges that the police chief knew about the repeated sexual assault by Lane after Antone reported him, but that the chief failed to investigate him or punish him, allowing him to remain on duty. Lane was reported to have retired in 1996.

“I’m Indigenous and because of my criminal record, they figured that they had the OK, that nobody was going to listen to me,” Antone told the CBC. “I believe that there might be other victims, maybe not victims of Bull or Garraway or Lane, but other victims of the London Police Department, and I feel that they should have a platform to tell their stories also.”

“Police confirmed they had no reason to think she was lying, but when she reported it to the chief of police and SIU, no investigation was done, with allegedly a serial rapist on active duty,” Fearon said. “So that’s a very difficult thing to understand since police have an obligation to investigate credible sexual assault allegations for anyone but especially police officers.”

Fearon said this case also speaks to a wider problem of institutional sexual abuse of children. “Institutions generally don’t handle it appropriately, don’t put protections in place, don’t take appropriate steps to investigate it and report it to police,” he said. “There’s thousands who went through this and are now talking about what happened as children.”

He added, “My client’s voice was not being listened to. It’s a common thing Indigenous women have gone through, but she had the resilience to raise children, she went back to university and got a degree and lectured at Western about violence against Indigenous women – it’s pretty remarkable, using her experience to become a teacher.”

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.