LIFESTYLES

Profile in courage

A schoolgirl wins praise as a local hero

D’ARCY JENISH,BARBARA MacANDREW August 23 1993
LIFESTYLES

Profile in courage

A schoolgirl wins praise as a local hero

D’ARCY JENISH,BARBARA MacANDREW August 23 1993

Profile in courage

LIFESTYLES

A schoolgirl wins praise as a local hero

Amelia Peter Paul was sleeping soundly at her grandmother’s home in Scotchfort, P.E.I., when she was awakened by loud, prolonged knocking at the front door. An 11-year-old Grade 6 student, Amelia got up, turned on a couple of lights and woke her 67-year-old maternal grandmother, Mary Jane Jadis. It was 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 4, and Scotchfort, a tiny Micmac Indian village 25 km southwest of Charlottetown, lay in almost total darkness. Still drowsy and a little nervous, Amelia answered the door and encountered a distraught-looking young woman, who asked to use the phone. “She dialled and talked about 10 minutes to someone,” Amelia recalled. “Suddenly I felt really scared. The woman was crying, getting really upset.”

So began a night of terror and courage and love, one that left Amelia badly wounded and earned her a hero’s welcome when she returned to Prince Edward Island last week. After hanging up the phone, the visitor turned to Amelia and her grandmother, who had been sitting nearby, and said that she felt like killing someone. Jadis—5 ft., 100 lb. and suffering from severe arthritis—tried to reach for the phone, but the woman blocked her path and pulled a pair of long, slender, pointed scissors from her jeans. She lunged abruptly at the elderly woman, but Amelia intervened. “I couldn’t let anyone hurt my granny,” Amelia told Maclean’s. “I just couldn’t let her die that way. I jumped between the woman and Granny and guarded her like in my favorite sport, basketball. I had to protect Granny from the stabbings.”

Throughout the brief but savage attack, the terrified schoolgirl acted as a human shield to save her grandmother’s life. The scissors punctured her back, her shoulders and her rib cage. Amelia finally buckled and collapsed to the floor, but the attacker’s fury had not subsided. When the woman again lunged at her grandmother, Amelia said, “I got up and jumped in front of her again.”

Neither Amelia nor her grandmother can remember exactly how they managed to escape their attacker. But Jadis recalls that they left by a side door and made their way nearly 400 m uphill in pitch darkness to Amelia’s home. She also remembers hearing the woman screaming that she was going to kill both of them. At one point, Jadis says, she fell and nearly fainted from the effort of trying to support her wounded granddaughter. “Somehow, I got the strength to get up and go on,” Jadis said. “Amelia was gasping for breath. She said to me: ‘Granny, I can’t see.’ I said, ‘Just keep walking towards your house.’ ”

Amelia’s parents, Junior Peter Paul, 32, and his wife, Barbara, 31, said that they will never forget the horror they felt when they opened their door that night. ‘There was Amelia,” said her mother, “covered in blood, gasping for breath, and her eyes closed in terrible pain. Her grandmother was covered in blood and somehow holding her up.” Within 15 minutes, Amelia was on her way by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. “Oxygen was applied en route to hospital,” said Neil MacDonald, owner of the ambulance company. “The patient was drowsy but stable, and quite conscious.” Doctors later determined that Amelia had been stabbed 26 times and that one of the wounds punctured a lung while others had come within inches of her heart. The little finger on her left hand was nearly severed. Later that day, after doctors at the Charlottetown hospital had treated her wounds, Amelia was transported by helicopter to the Izaak Walton Killam Children’s Hospital in Halifax.

Although doctors had to perform surgery, Amelia spent only three days in hospital. When she came home to Scotchfort last week, residents greeted her with a barbecue and signs that said, “We love you, Amelia.” She looked remarkably good. “There are no scars on my face or legs,” Amelia said. “Worst of all, I won’t be able to play sports like basketball for a year. Best of all, my Granny has no cuts at all.”

A few hours after the attack, the RCMP arrested Marie Labobe, 18, and charged her with one count of attempted murder and two counts of breaking and entering. Labobe had escaped from Hillsborough Hospital, a Charlottetown psychiatric facility, the day before. Some Scotchfort residents wondered why the Mounties had not launched an immediate search for the woman when she escaped. But Cpl. Donald Pendleton of the RCMP’s Charlottetown detachment said that the force did not organize a search because the officers did not consider her dangerous based on her past behavior.

While Amelia’s bravery seemed to defy explanation, P.E.I. Micmac Grand Council Captain John Joe Sark says it reflects the deep bonds between children and their elders in native cultures. “Amelia’s courage, reverence and love for her grandmother goes back 10,000 years in the history of our people,” Sark said. “Wisdom of the elders and the energy of the youth will bring a new, better world.” Amelia’s mother had given her an eagle feather a few months before the attack—and Amelia, who is studying native culture and wants to be a lawyer, wonders if it brought her luck. Jadis still marvels that they survived—still marvels at the grit of a little girl. “It was as if,” she said, “someone was giving us special strength.”

D’ARCY JENISH

BARBARA MacANDREW