The AMC and Chief Derek Nepinak Stand in Solidarity with Young Woman who was Sexually Assault by a Winnipeg Taxi Driver

June 19, 2023

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), and Chief Derek Nepinak of Minegoziibe Anishinaabe (Pine Creek First Nation) stood beside Ava Sun and her mother, Lorie Thompson, as she spoke with great courage of the night she was raped in the back of a taxi.

In a press conference on Friday, June 16, 2023, Ava shared details of how she was sexually assaulted then thrown out of the cab in the middle of the street within the St Mary Road area possibly near Abinoji Mikinah (Bishop Grandin Boulevard). Ava has reported the crime to the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) and received treatment from the Health Sciences Centre Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program (SANE). The taxi driver has not yet been identified or investigated. Ava sustained bruising to her head and body that also suggests she may have been forced into the cab.

“Our women are sacred, and no one should be assaulted by those whom the city designates as a safe person, especially not raped by people who are supposed to be getting them home,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “I want to acknowledge the bravery of this woman coming forward to address the violence she experienced on the evening of June 12. It takes tremendous courage to stand up and share a trauma such as this. Countless reports and personal accounts from our First Nations community, particularly our women, paint a bleak picture of the dangers they face when utilizing Winnipeg’s taxi services. Now we find ourselves once again addressing the sexual assault of someone who trusted their cab driver to get them home safely. This cannot keep happening.”

AMC and Chief Derek Nepinak call on the City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Police Service, the Province of Manitoba, and the Manitoba Taxi Board to address these ongoing safety issues. The lack of action to address the rampant abuse by taxi drivers perpetuates an unsafe environment for our First Nations citizens. The numerous incidents of assault, abuse, threats, and other offences only reinforce the urgent need for tangible action. We need an action plan immediately. “It signifies a broken system when municipal governments represent that they are building solutions yet the same violence against indigenous girls, women & 2S persist day after day and week after week in Winnipeg,” said Chief Derek Nepinak.

Additionally, there were questions put forth by media during the press conference that were triggering for those in attendance. We call on the media to demonstrate respect and trauma-informed care when invited to interview victims bringing light to violent actions. We further call on media outlets to require their staff to attend trauma-informed response training before sending reporters to gather stories from survivors of violence and sexual assault. We do not need to retraumatize our loved ones while they are most vulnerable.

“We need action on this police report filed by Ava. The Winnipeg Police Services can find the driver of a public accident utilizing street cameras on Bishop Grandin a couple of weeks ago, so why can’t they use those cameras to find this taxi driver who raped Ava Sun, pulled her off the road, and left her there?” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick asks. “First Nations citizens in Manitoba should not have to continue to live in fear, experience this horrific violence, or be denied justice and fair investigations. The guidance and expertise of our leaders are crucial in finding lasting solutions. Clearly, safety concerns involving taxi drivers and First Nations citizens require immediate resolution. The provincial and municipal governments must also demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation by taking action and keeping First Nations citizens safe. We will continue to rally around this woman as a community, confront this issue head-on, and seek the justice she deserves.”

Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat.

For more information, please contact:
Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.