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Canadian police charge suspect over 1976 murder of Indigenous girl

Giovanni Torre -

Five decades after she disappeared, Canadian police have charged a suspect with the murder of 16-year-old Métis girl Pauline Brazeau.

On Wednesday Alberta's Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued a media statement announcing that Ronald James Edwards, 73, is facing a charge of non-capital murder (as the offence was known in 1976).

The police said Ms Brazeau was a single mother who moved to Calgary from Saskatchewan in the Autumn of 1975 and was last seen leaving Peppe's Ristorante in downtown Calgary on January 9, 1976.

Alberta RCMP serious crimes branch officer in charge Insp. Breanne Brown said "the search for Pauline's killer has never ended over the past 47 years".

"Throughout the years we have always been hopeful that the person responsible would be held accountable," she said.

Otipemisiwak Métis Government President Andrea Sandmaier told APTN News that while "the circumstances around Pauline Brazeau's death are tragic, it is heartening to see that the person responsible has been charged".

"It is never too late for justice to be served. I hope this news brings her family some peace," she said.

The Mounties said recent advancements in DNA testing helped identify distant relatives and narrow down their suspect pool based on DNA profiles that people upload voluntarily to popular genealogy sites.

In 2021, the Alberta RCMP historical homicide unit and Calgary Police Service cold case unit collaborated to examine homicide investigations from the 1970s using genetic genealogy, and the following year sought the assistance of Othram Inc, a private US lab.

Calgary police also worked with genealogists from Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy to get a lead on a potential suspect, and on 7 November Edwards was arrested in Sundre, Alta, a community 100 km northwest of Calgary.

The Métis are indigenous nation of Canada that has combined Native American and European cultural practices since at least the 17th century. Their language, Michif, which is a French and Cree trade language, is also called French Cree or Métis.

In 2003 Canada formally recognised the Métis as an indigenous group with the same broad rights as other First Nations peoples.

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