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Three people have been charged after a lengthy investigation into the alleged sexual and physical abuse of multiple children at a foster home in Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba.
On February 25, 2018, a 21-year-old male from the community, Paul Bruce Harper, was first arrested and charged with multiple sexual offences.
During an investigation into three reported sexual assaults between December 2017 and June 2017, it was learnt that Harper had access to a residence that was a foster home for numerous children in the community.
Police said in a statement today that after an extensive 11-month investigation, a total of 17 children, both male and female, ranging from 3 to 15 years of age at the time of the incidents, were identified as victims of sexual and/or physical abuse. The offences occurred between 2011 and 2017.
The RCMP added that more than 150 children were identified by Child and Family Services as having contact with the accused.
"These allegations were very serious and as the investigation continued, we became increasingly concerned that there was a potential for more victims due to the number of children who were in the care of this foster home throughout the years," said Superintendent Michael Koppang.
The foster mother, 66-year-old Lucy Harper, was charged under the Criminal Code of Canada with perjury in addition to two counts of failure to report a child in need of protection and failure to provide for a child in need of protection, under the Child and Family Service Act on Sept. 8, 2018
She is currently released on a recognizance with conditions and is no longer a foster parent.
A second offender, a 20-year-old male, was also identified, 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.
Police say he cannot be named as he is being charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
"We recognize the possibility that there may be more children who have been victimized and are urging them to come forward and to speak with our investigators," said Superintendent Koppang. "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."
RCMP released a photo of Paul Harper in order to further investigative efforts and identify additional victims.
The Island Lake RCMP along with assistance from the RCMP Major Crime Unit continue to investigate. RCMP investigators can be reached by calling the Island Lake Detachment at 204-456-2290.