Police have charged and arrested a Manitoba man following a child sexual and physical abuse case investigation involving a foster home. According to police, a foster parent and one individual who cannot be named have also been charged. While some victims have been identified, police believe that there may be many more.
Warning: This article and a video included below contains descriptions of sexual assault, which may be difficult for some people. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, call the Assaulted Women's Helpline at 1(866)863-0511 or find them online here.
Between December 2017 and June 2018, Island Lake RCMP in Manitoba received three reports of child sexual assault that all occurred in the Garden Hill First Nation.
On February 25, 2018, 21-year-old Paul Bruce Harper was arrested and charged with multiple sexual offences. This sparked a police investigation and RCMP learnt that the accused had access to a residence that as a foster home for numerous children in the community.
RCMP and Child and Family Services then joined forces to initiate an investigation. Both parties are concerned that there are a large number of potential victims due to the amount of children who had been in the foster home over the years, according to the news release from RCMP.
According to RCMP, more than 150 children were identified by Child and Family Services as having contact with Harper.
Police have since publicly released a photo and information about Harper in hopes of encouraging other victims to come forward.
Based on the ages of the children, child abuse investigators from both the RCMP and Child and Family Services have interviewed the victims. They also had them medically assessed at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.
Following the 11-month long investigation, 17 male and female children ranging from three to 15-year-old were identified as victims of sexual and/or physical abuse. According to police, these offences took place between 2011, and 2017.
During the investigation, a second offender was identified. This 20-year-old male was arrested and charged on September 7, 2018, November 22, 2018, and April 30, 2019, with multiple counts of sexual assault, sexual interference, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and assault. He has not been named by police as he is being charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Harper was also charged April 26, 2018, November 21, 2018, and April 30, 2019, with additional counts of sexual assault, sexual interference, aggravated assault, and assault. Both Harper and the other male remain in police custody.
On September 8, 2018, chargers were also laid against the 66-year-old foster mother, Lucy Harper. She was charged with perjury and two counts of failure to report a child in need of protection and failure to provide for a child in need of protection. She is currently released on recognizance with conditions and is no longer a foster parent.
"We recognize that calling the police is an extremely difficult step to take but I want to assure anyone who is thinking of coming forward that our officers are professional and compassionate and will work with victims to explain every step of the process,” said Superintendent Michael Koppang, Officer in Charge of Major Crime Services for the Manitoba RCMP.
Victims are encouraged to call the Island Lake detachment at (204)456-2290. They can also remain anonymous by calling the Clinic Community Health 24/7 Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 1(888)292-7565.