((Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – February 24, 2022) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) strongly and vehemently opposes Garry Taylor Handlen’s appeal of his conviction for the 1978 rape and murder of twelve-year old Monica Jack of the Lower Nicola Indian Band in Merritt, BC. Supporters of Monica’s family and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl advocates watched Handlen’s appeal over Zoom on January 18th, condemning his appeal and uniting in solidarity against his release. This case points to a disturbing reality: convictions for crimes committed against Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit+ individuals are a lengthy, traumatizing process, and attempts to exonerate the guilty only undermine justice and re-traumatize the victim’s family and loved ones. UBCIC calls for action and implementation of the Calls for Justice and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to fully protect women and children in the wake of ongoing and increasing violence.
“Today I see seemingly endless disappearances of females on the news who were innocently doing their own thing, but they don’t come home. What has happened to them? Some girls are found, and some are not, much like Monica who has been gone from us for over 40 years… my children were all a young age and vulnerable and totally unprepared for such an awful thing to have come upon us…Now their life is set on a different direction due to all of the hurt that’s been inflicted on all of us…” stated Madeline Lanaro, mother of Monica Jack. “My youngest daughter said in court to Handlen, ‘you have taken away my sister’s life, she was never able to enjoy her life anymore because you took it from her; she was never able to graduate, to have fun while she was young, never able to get married, to have her own children to enjoy and raise’. In my mind I think he is a monster. Today we have too many of our young daughters gone because of someone like Handlen… For all the people who chose to work on my daughter’s case I am grateful. For those of you whose loved ones are still missing or murdered, it’s true that there is no remedy for the loss, but I encourage you to dig deep in yourself and your community and draw on your courage to fight for the justice they deserve. It’s the least I could do for my Monica”.
“Monica’s murder has been part of a relentless wave of sexual and gender-based violence happening across BC for decades”, stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC. “The Okanagan, Highway of Tears, and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside are at the epicenter of the MMIWG2S+ crisis and continue to see alarming rates of murder and disappearance. Far from improving, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dangerous Shadow Pandemic of increased rates of domestic violence inflicted upon women and children globally. While the National Inquiry’s Calls for Justice have come too late for countless women and girls, they are still needed now and for our future generations. I urge Canada and BC to dedicate the resources needed to end the genocide, protect young lives, and the future of our communities.”
“Despite over four decades having passed since Monica’s murder, the impacts of her death are still felt profoundly by her family, friends, and communities who are all intimately tied to the MMIWG2S+ movement. The drawn-out justice process and institutional barriers Indigenous people face throughout the colonial justice system keeps this pain alive”, said Melissa Moses, Women’s Representative of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “News of Handlen’s appeal brings to mind countless stories of victims who are forced to relive their grief and are re-traumatized by an offender and a faulty justice system that disregards their truths and experiences. The magnitude and lasting effects of violence we experience in our communities, particularly against children, is a curse that, without systemic change and healing, is too easily passed to future generations. We need to see justice reform that is centered in healing and protecting victims and their loved ones”.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the UBCIC stated, “It pains me to my core to know that the gruesome violation and murder of twelve-year-old Monica is not an isolated incident or a thing of the past; worse, it is a reality for Indigenous children and youth who face disproportionate rates of violence and are ensnared in the devastating circumstances of the MMWIG2S+ crisis”.
“The outrage and sorrow at losing a child is unbearable, made worse when it is at the hands of unspeakable violence. This grief is known too intimately by Indigenous people across Canada”, concluded Chief Don Tom, Vice-President of the UBCIC. “We stand with all First Nations and with Monica’s relatives and we call for actionable change that will see women and children safe and respected once and for all.”
For a full statement from Madeline Lanaro, Monica Jack’s mother, see below.
UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
For more information please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca
If you fear for your safety, or are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you are not in immediate danger, please refer to the following supports and resources:
- Call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 for information about all services that are available throughout the Province.
- Battered Women’s Support Services can assist with emotional support, safety planning, and legal advocacy
- Call at 604.687.1867 or toll free at 1-855-687-1868; if you’re unable to speak safely, please text 604-652-1867 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ending Violence Association of BC: https://endingviolence.org/need-help/
- National Inquiry’s report on MMIWG: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Centre https://www.niwrc.org/
Thoughts and wishes shared by Monica’s mother, Madeline Lanaro
One thought is regarding what is happening to our young innocent girls and other women who are taken, abused, raped, degraded, assaulted, and often murdered and left behind for animals to tear them apart still more. In my case, not only is the family torn apart but the extended family too are a shambles, then the community bands and the whole town are in shock. But there is no one more who knows how to help. The community comes together and looks for miles for anything, even a stick that was turned over again, then the area is combed well for months. Some people with boats go out onto the lake, as do the RCMP with their equipment and diving gear, and nothing.
This reality has fallen onto families who are put into a situation where we feel too inadequate to function as a family, with siblings who all have had their life set ahead for them with their goals for their future. Knowing that their sister was taken away, by what, whom, why, and where she might be left unknown to us, brought about a lifestyle torn to bits and pieces that my children and myself were unable to put back together, and my children were all a young age and vulnerable and totally unprepared for such an awful thing to have come upon us…Now their life is set on a different direction due to all of the hurt that’s been inflicted on all of us. We had no one to help us emotionally or mentally. We can function physically; but you know there are good kind people, but there are also hurtful people whom we have had to also contend with.
Today I see seemingly endless disappearances of females on the news who were innocently doing their own thing, but they don’t come home. What has happened to them? Some girls are found, and some are not, much like Monica who has been gone from us for 40 years. My youngest daughter said in court to Handlen, “you have taken away my sister’s life, she was never able to enjoy her life anymore because you took it from her; she was never able to graduate, to have fun while she was young, never able to get married, to have her own children to enjoy and raise”. In my mind I think he is a monster. Today we have too many of our young daughters gone because of someone like Handlen said, “she must be an Indian, it’s obvious they live on a reserve”. I don’t believe everyone says that, but it has been told that Handlen did.
As was from the beginning of time, our parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, whole reserves love and looked after all of the children. The town of Merritt has the people who have lots of compassion and treat everyone the same when someone has been mistreated in any way. As time goes on, we are having too many of our girls and women mistreated. So much abuse physically and mentally. And families are hiding this behind closed doors.
This came too when Monica disappeared, I called the RCMP immediately. They came; however, in that day they were not as trained as they are today. The investigators who worked on Monica’s 22-01-20 case is as different as night and day.
I was a nuisance over the first years, and then E-PANA came in and asked me if they could put Monica Rose Jack on their list for investigating. I said, “Yes, yes, please do”. And Monica was added to their list along with a young girl from Kamloops. The name of the group is “The Highway of Tears”, of Highway 16 of the North.
They were and are a hardworking planning group of investigators. Monica’s case was investigated in every way they could. The last was “Mr. Big”. As time went on, they got a confession from Mr. Handlen and he was picked up in Vancouver. My family and three investigators were with me at that moment, and we were told when he was handcuffed, read his rights, and taken to jail that night. That was invigorating to get to that point, and then came more work and the stretched-out court case. The judge’s decision, which was again another good day for lots of good work by the RCMP, E-PANA, investigators, witnesses, and all the lawyers that stayed on the case to the final day.
For all the people who chose to work for Monica Rose Jack who was my daughter I am grateful, it was good to have continuity when we walked into the courthouse each time. I tried to talk to everyone of them, thanked them and encouraged them when the going was really rough, and it was often really rough days when the opposing lawyer questioned them and did their best to make them make a mistake.
I also thank those who took the time to come and support my family and myself at court when they had a little time. The support workers were good to have, even now with the Appeal I have had to talk with them because it doesn’t appear to be anyone here in the Merritt area.
Notes and downloads
 Project E-Pana is an RCMP task force created in 2005 with the purpose of solving cases of missing and murdered women along Highway 16, the Highway of Tears