EDMONTON — The parents of a man accused of viciously attacking a six-year-old girl on an Alberta reserve say they have been forced to move because of threats of violence.
Ramona and James Strong said in a statement that RCMP helped move them and their other eight children from the Paul First Nation on Dec. 22. That was the same day their 21-year-old son, James Clifford Paul, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.
Band administrator Shane Pospisil said the family is staying at an Edmonton-area hotel and may never be able to go home.
“While the little girl is a victim and the injuries she has suffered are very, very serious, our family and our other eight children are now also victims,” the Strongs wrote in a signed statement released Monday to The Canadian Press.
“We didn’t do anything, and our kids didn’t do anything, but we had to flee our home on the Paul Band reserve because of threats and a very real fear of violence against us.
“It’s a terrible thing but it had to be done to protect us and our kids — none of us who have done anything wrong.”
The girl was found, outdoors, battered and near death on the reserve near Duffield, west of Edmonton, a few days before Christmas. Media reports have said she was naked in the snow in the woods.
She was airlifted to hospital in life-threatening condition and remained unconscious in hospital for several days.
A suspect was arrested on the nearby Alexis First Nation, about 30 kilometres northeast of the Paul reserve.
Police said he had no fixed address and was not a stranger to the girl.
Pospisil confirmed Monday that the girl remains in hospital.
The Strongs said they are devastated by what happened and are praying for the girl’s recovery.
“We just want to say, like everybody else, we are truly and deeply shocked and mortified and still find it hard to believe what happened to the victim, the little girl, who continues to lie in very bad shape at Edmonton’s Stollery Hospital,” they said.
“Our oldest son stands accused and we understand this. But we do have faith and confidence in the RCMP investigators and Canadian courts that there will be a fair trial on the very serious charges laid against him.”
The Strongs also noted the conditions on the Paul First Nation and said they hope things will improve.
“Paul Band reserve may not be known to many outsiders, but drugs, alcohol, violence, threats, abuse and more and more suicides are now a big part of what goes on there,” the family said.
“We continue to pray for the little girl’s recovery and a better future for our family and kids and a better life for all those on the Paul Band reserve.”