Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Charges laid against mom accused in stabbing three -- Depression harder for newcomers

The Winnipeg woman accused of stabbing her two young children has been charged with attempted murder for the attack, police said Friday.
Investigators allege the 35-year-old woman grabbed a knife and stabbed her nine-year-old son and her four-month-old son Thursday night. It's believed she was then prevented from attacking her four-month-old niece by the little girl's mother -- who is the 32-year-old sister of the suspect.
The adult sister struggled with her and disarmed her, but was stabbed in the process. She was treated and released from hospital Thursday night. The children, initially listed in critical condition, were upgraded to stable condition on Friday.
The mother of the injured boys was grappling with post-partum depression and had been hospitalized in February, the Free Press previously reported.
The woman, who came to Canada from Somalia, lived on the fourth floor of 355 Kennedy St. with her two children.
She told police her husband had been using magic on her, according to a Free Press source.
The husband doesn't live in Canada.
On Friday afternoon, at the Manitoba Housing complex where the woman lived, many neighbours were still in shock. The building's management slipped support packages under suites' doors, urging residents coping with stress in the aftermath of the attack or other events to contact a mobile crisis hotline. "It's quite upsetting for everybody," said one woman, who lives in the building. "It's much too close to home."
Though many neighbours said they didn't know the woman -- with one adding building residents generally "keep to themselves" -- some said they often saw the woman smiling and laughing with her children and crossing the hallway to visit a friend.
She often entertained female guests, neighbours said.
After news of the attack broke, some hoped the incident would shed light on the need for support services for refugees and new Canadians. "For people from other countries, there are not enough agencies," said one woman who lives in the complex. "They don't know where to go (for support). Even people from here don't know where to go... it makes it tough on everybody."
Police, too, are having a tough time dealing with the violent attack, said Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen.
The attack left the four-month-old with multiple stab wounds to his lower body.
The nine-year-old was stabbed once before he fled the fourth-floor suite and sought help from security guards, who then called 911. "Our biggest concern is the well-being of the victims in this matter," Michalyshen said.
Police arrested the woman on the scene. Michalyshen said the woman had no previous run-ins with police.
He wouldn't comment on the woman's mental health, but said the WPS works with outside professionals to "get to the root of the issue" following incidents like the one that occurred Thursday.
"We have to rely on other organizations and other professionals to perform (psychological) assessments," Michalyshen said.
He said talk of the woman's post-partum depression is "speculation" but it was a possibility the woman suffered from it. Child and Family Services has been contacted about the two injured children, he said.
On Friday, women in traditional head coverings went into the sister's downtown apartment at about noon.
Some men who knew the injured sister said they were gathering with elders from the Somali community to talk about the stabbing.
The WPS child abuse unit continues to investigate the incident.
The woman is charged with three counts of attempted murder, assault with a weapon and assault. She is being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

I have sympathy for this woman. I do not think she should be held in the remand centre, causing further overcrowding, when she is not dangerous. She has no prior record and suffers from severe depression, which is likely to worsen in prison. She should be granted bail as soon as possible and provided with mental health resources and services. 

IMMIGRANT and refugee women grappling with post-partum depression in Winnipeg could find themselves isolated and alone, say local experts.
Gail Wylie, the executive director of Healthy Start for Mom & Me, helps about 100 mothers who are new Canadians develop their parenting skills. She said immigrant and refugee women in the group are encouraged to come forward privately if they have any symptoms associated with post-partum depression.
"There's so much personal shame involved in the feelings and the sadness associated with this," Wylie said. That shame isn't limited to just new Canadians, she said, but those moms have the added challenges of culture shock and language barriers that could magnify the problems.
"If I was transplanted against my plans to a country that was extremely different than what I grew up in, I can't really imagine how painful that might be," she said.
The issue came to light this week after a four-month-old boy and his nine-year-old brother were stabbed allegedly at the hands of their mother.
Police say the 35-year-old woman attacked the children in their suite on Kennedy Street late Thursday afternoon. The boys were listed in stable condition late Friday.
The Free Press has learned the mother has recently been suffering from post-partum depression.
Wylie called the violent incident "heartbreaking."
Dr. Murray Enns, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's medical director of the adult mental health program, said at least 80 per cent of new moms experience some form of baby blues, but only one out of every 1,000 will show psychotic features.
The WRHA does not track how many women seek help for post-partum depression, but has interpreters available who can translate Somali.
Millie Braun, family and child-care resources program director at Portage Avenue's Family Centre, is currently running a pilot program for refugee families from countries like Colombia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea and Somalia.
The program works with about 90 families a year, providing support to people trying to integrate. Some of the families are led by single mothers.
Workers will sometimes help families with child care or with setting up appointments, she said.
Financial trouble, faraway family and friends and poor housing can add to a person's stress level, Braun said.
"Many people are still worrying at the same time about family that's left behind, or a lot of grief and loss that they've experienced even prior to coming here and things that are still even going on back home," she said.
"I think it's difficult enough for moms to be raising children in isolation without a lot of support, and then you add on top of that everything that people have been through, especially people coming from war-torn countries," Braun said.
Having young children to care for may inhibit a single mother's access to learn English, said Noelle DePape, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba executive director. She said there can be "pretty massive" cultural barriers.
"It's very hard for moms with toddlers at home who don't always have a strong support network to even get out of the house or to access language programs, or employment training, or parenting support groups," she said.
Diagnosing post-partum depression isn't always clear, said Braun.
"We will often have people say, 'I cry a lot, I can't sleep,' and we would try to assist in getting some treatment for that, but I think there's all kinds of stigma attached to that as well."
Counselling and family therapy can be seen as a "Western concept," she said.
"I think that perceptions of people in other parts of the world are that you only get that kind of help if you're crazy," she said.
"I think there is some resistance to seeking help, mental-health supports, because of the associated stigma."

Mental illness may have fuelled attack on children
Post-partum depression is being eyed as a possible reason a 35-year-old mother went into a violent rage and stabbed her two young sons and sister in a Winnipeg apartment.
City police said the boys, aged four months and nine years, were in stable condition in hospital Friday.
Attempted murder charges were laid against their mom, who was raising the boys alone after moving to Canada from Somalia.
The boys’ 32-year-old aunt is out of hospital. She was credited for stopping the attack and potentially saving the children’s lives.
Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said the motive for the attack hasn’t been confirmed but police will receive assistance from other professionals in determining that.
“We have to get to the root of the issue here,” he said.
It’s believed the mom will undergo a psychiatric assessment.
A source said the boys’ dad is in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, which has been stressful for their mom.
Police were called to the fourth-floor suite at 355 Kennedy St., just north of Ellice Avenue, Thursday about 5:30 p.m. The building is owned and operated by Manitoba Housing.
Michalyshen said the suspect’s sister was visiting with her four-month-old daughter.
The attack began when the mom allegedly stabbed her four-month-old son several times and her nine-year-old son once.
She also allegedly tried to harm her infant niece.
Police said the sister disarmed and restrained the suspect during a struggle, despite suffering a stab wound to her midsection.
Michalyshen said the older boy escaped and notified a security guard, who called 911.
Tenant James Mayen encountered the blood-covered nine-year-old, who had a wound to the stomach area, in the lobby.
“He told me he was stabbed by his mom,” said Mayen, who lives across from the family.
Mayen said he often heard the mom screaming at the older boy in English and her native language.
“There’s yelling coming from the apartment all the time,” he said.
The infant son was rushed to hospital in critical condition, while the nine-year-old was taken in unstable condition, Michalyshen said.
A knife was recovered at the scene, he said.
Exposure to this kind of violence against children can have a profound impact on firefighters, paramedics and police, Michalyshen said.
“They will be thinking of this incident in days, weeks, months and years ahead,” he said. “No one is going to forget that.”
Police charged the mom with three counts of attempted murder and single counts of assault with a weapon and assault. She is in custody.
Child and Family Services is involved, Michalyshen said.

More immigrant moms facing mental health issues
Immigrant mothers are up to five times more likely to develop post-partum depression (PPD) than other Canadians, a leading child health researcher says.
Language and cultural differences and social isolation are two reasons for the greater risk, said Nicole Letourneau, a nursing professor and research fellow at the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick.
“It’s a really vulnerable group,” Letourneau said.
The tragic triple stabbing of two young boys and their aunt, allegedly by the boys’ mom, is bringing to light the issue of PPD because it might be a reason behind the attack.
Letourneau said some cultures stigmatize or don’t recognize depression, resulting in a lack of understanding or missed diagnosis because some mothers don’t seek help or have a peer network to refer them.
One in seven mothers is prone to PPD, she said.
To reduce the risk, public education, improved accessibility to support and better screening are required, and attitudes about depression must be changed, Letourneau said.
Some mothers with PPD also have elements of post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences in war-torn African countries, said Kiran Pramesh, a community resource and family support worker at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.
She said newcomers need to be educated about PPD and know it’s OK to seek help in Canada as they make a stressful and challenging adjustment to a new home.
“In many cultures it’s not socially acceptable to go out and speak about private matters,” Pramesh said.
Pramesh said there are many programs and services available to newcomers in Winnipeg — many are within walking distance of the site of Thursday’s attack — but there is room for more.
Some aren’t meeting their potential due to a lack of funding, she said.

I definitely feel that we need to have more programs and services available to immigrants in Winnipeg. There should be resources, language programs, employment assistance, housing assistance, support groups, parenting programs, mental health resources, etc.