Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 26, 2017 - 4:00 pm

RCMP, family renew pleas for information on 1986 homicide

“It’s been harder and I think it’s because we never really dealt with it. It’s unsolved”

LISA GREGOIRE
Barbara Sevigny, left, sister of the late Mary Anne Birmingham of Iqaluit, and her mother, Sarah Birmingham, hold a photo of Mary Anne taken prior to the 15-year-old's brutal murder on May 26, 1986 in Iqaluit. Sevigny and her mother were attending a MMIWG pre-inquiry consultation hosted by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada in Ottawa in 2016. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Barbara Sevigny, left, sister of the late Mary Anne Birmingham of Iqaluit, and her mother, Sarah Birmingham, hold a photo of Mary Anne taken prior to the 15-year-old's brutal murder on May 26, 1986 in Iqaluit. Sevigny and her mother were attending a MMIWG pre-inquiry consultation hosted by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada in Ottawa in 2016. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

It’s been 31 years since her sister died in an unsolved Iqaluit murder but in some ways, it hurts more now, says Elisapee Sheutiapik.

Since telling her story publicly alongside sister Barbara Sevigny at hearings held in advance of the public inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, the wound from that time has opened up and, with the inquiry constantly in the news, there’s no time for it to close.

“It seems to be worse more so this particular year,” said Sheutiapik May 26, on the phone from Ottawa. “It’s been harder and I think it’s because we never really dealt with it. It’s unsolved.”

The body of Sheutiapik’s sister Mary Anne Birmingham was found in an Iqaluit residence in 1986, stabbed and mutilated. She was 15 years old.

Despite best efforts by local investigators, and even private rewards offered to help solve the shocking case, Birmingham’s killer was never found.

Nunavut RCMP’s “V” Division issued a news release May 25 to coincide with the May 26 anniversary of Birmingham’s death and to renew a plea to members of the public to come forward to police if they have any information on the case.

Sheutiapik, president of Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council and a former Iqaluit mayor, said she understands that police are occupied by day-to-day investigations and have few resources to devote to a decades-old murder.

But add that to the fact RCMP members rotate in and out of the Iqaluit detachment every few years, and might not even know about the case, and it’s difficult to maintain hope that anything new will come of this latest call out for information.

Hope is hard to come by sometimes.

Sheutiapik said she is still disappointed that MMIWG organizers were unable to name an Inuk woman to sit on the commission, choosing instead Qajaq Robinson, who was raised in the North and who speaks Inuktitut but who does not have the lived experience of being an Inuk in the North.

Sevigny, Sheutiapik’s younger sister, now works for the MMIWG inquiry but even so, Sheutiapik is dubious of what they can do for Inuit who live in a society more prone to violence than most anywhere else in Canada and who are hemmed in by poverty, addiction, and a lack of housing and support services.

When asked if she plans to participate in the upcoming inquiry, to again tell the story of how her teenage sister died, she paused and then said she wasn’t sure. Perhaps it would be better to let others tell their stories instead, she said.

But she did offer some parting words to her fellow Nunavummiut in the hopes of a brighter, northern future.

“I want to remind people that it’s OK to be different. It’s OK to disagree and, on occasion, have an argument. But we gotta stop this violence of physical, mental and emotional abuse because at the end of the day, that kind of situation has an impact on suicide. You could have a life lost because of physical violence.

“Let’s just acknowledge people are different and that’s great because it would be a boring world if we were all the same.”

Nunavut RCMP say they are continuing their investigation in the 1986 death of Mary Anne Birmingham.

“High profile homicide investigations such as this one require a significant amount of evidence,” said the May 25 RCMP release.

“As is the case with many investigations, the success is built form information provided by the public. There may be individuals who have the intimate details of this crime that can assist us with identifying and apprehending whoever is responsible for the homicide of Mary Anne.”

If you have any information about the death of Mary Anne Birmingham, call the Major Crime tip line at 867-975-4442 or toll free at 1-844-370-7729. If you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share

 THIS WEEK’S ADS

 ADVERTISING