Why are Canadians indifferent to race crimes?
Joan Taillon,
Windspeaker Staff Writer

Just Another Indian
A Serial Killer and
Canada’s Indifference
By Warren Goulding
Fifth House Publishing, Calgary
219 pages
$22.95 (sc)

A case study of serial killer John Martin Crawford’s attacks on Native women in Western Canada has been compiled into a book that is ominously reminiscent of the notorious paperback, Conspiracy of Silence, published almost three decades ago and subsequently made into a television movie. In that book, the victim was 19-year-old student Helen Betty Osborne in The Pas, Man. Because of racism and indifference, it took 16 years to bring her killers to trial.

The very year the documentary brought a belated flurry of outrage about how Helen Betty’s dream of becoming a teacher was cut short, another man who targeted Native women was engaged in an ugly killing spree.

In journalist Warren Goulding’s recently published book, Just Another Indian: A Serial Killer and Canada’s Indifference, there were many victims, mostly young prostitutes.

Despite those differences, the gruesome themes, regrettably, are nearly identical. Both books are about white men who hunt down vulnerable Native women, apprehend and viciously beat or kill them. The subsequent criminal investigations are either late or flawed; media ignore the slaughter or under-report it; public reaction is apathetic or non-existent; some crimes are not punished; accomplices are not prosecuted.

Goulding’s book reveals that Crawford had already been to prison for manslaughter for brutally killing 35-year-old Mary Jane Serloin in Lethbridge, Alta. in 1981 when he was tried for the 1992 murders of Shelley Napope, Eva Taysup and Calinda Waterhen in Saskatoon.

In the Serloin case, Goulding said the judge found that “one of the most troubling aspects of the attack was Crawford’s callous disregard” for his victim. After killing Mary Jane, Crawford immediately returned to the tavern for pizza and beer.

In addition, “the state of the victim’s body told the police they were looking for a special breed of criminal,” yet Crawford was sentenced to just 10 years and served five before beginning a string of new assaults and murders.

Crawford may not have been the only one without a heart.

Mary Jane’s family in Brocket, Alta. told Goulding they were ignored by investigating authorities up to and including Crawford’s June 16, 1982 sentencing. Her sister Justine English said, “They didn’t even have the decency to let me know what was going on. I really would have wanted to see him, to see what the guy that killed my sister looked like.”

Crawford was let out of prison in 1989. His almost nightly habit was to cruise the dilapidated areas of town in his mother’s car looking for prostitutes. He was frequently in the company of drinking companion and former fellow inmate Bill Corrigan who witnessed or participated in some of Crawford’s crimes.

On May 9, 1992, Janet Sylvestre reported to police that Crawford had raped her across the street from the group home for men that Crawford’s mother operated. The next day, police found Crawford all but dead on a beach, apparently from a combination of sunstroke and substance abuse. Crawford was put in remand until June 18, when his mother put up $4,000 bail for his release into her custody.

On Oct. 2, Crawford was charged with attempted murder in the beating death of a Saskatoon man over the refusal of a cigarette and ended up in the Saskatoon Correctional Centre for most of 1993 for another assault on a young man.

Yet another woman came forward in 1995 after Crawford was arrested for the murders of Napope, Waterhen and Taysup. The young prostitute told police that in the spring of 1992 she was taken to a remote place by Crawford and Corrigan and nearly choked to death. A similar tale in the summer of 1992 emerged from yet another woman.

When the first set of human remains were discovered southwest of Saskatoon, Crawford became a suspect. For four months in 1994, the RCMP tagged him everywhere he went. It was during this period of intense surveillance that Crawford picked up Theresa Kematch, beat and raped her and left her on the street.

“Testimony given . . . suggests that two officers in particular may have been close to the Crawford vehicle while the attack took place.”

What is known for sure is that when the police picked up the injured woman later, she was arrested. At Crawford’s preliminary hearing in the summer of 1995, two of the officers gave conflicting evidence about whether Theresa had been injured or not.

Nearly six years later, after receiving psychiatric help, Theresa got a lawyer to file a claim “alleging that the RCMP was negligent in its duty to protect [her] from a man it knew to be a sexual offender and who had been convicted of manslaughter.” The police maintain they did not know Theresa was at risk and they had not raised a public alarm because they were building a case and did not want Crawford to disappear.

In the case of Calinda Waterhen, her father, Steve Morningchild, brought her lengthy absence to the attention of the RCMP in May 1993 and again in October 1994. Twice he was assured she was living in Saskatchewan and that her health card was being used. Because she was over 18, though, they would not reveal her whereabouts. The facts were, however, that Calinda’s remains were discovered in October 1994 and in January 1995 the RCMP finally said so.

John Crawford is serving three concurrent life sentences with no chance of parole for 20 years in the penitentiary at Prince Albert, Sask.

Only “child-killer Clifford Olson has been more deadly in the ranks of Canadian serial killers,” Goulding tells us.

Crown prosecutor Terry Hinz goes even further. “There is no reason why the Paul Bernardo case should have received more publicity than the John Martin Crawford case.”

The author of Just Another Indian thinks he knows why, and the police don’t get all the blame: Despite a history of rape, stabbing, strangling and dismembering, Crawford’s crime spree has largely been ignored by media.

“Race, geography, incompetence, and economics all play a role,” Goulding states. “There are no easy answers to explain Canadians’ indifference to this case-then or now-but as a society we must ask ourselves the questions.”

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