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Priest, Lisa.

Toronto, McCelland and Stewart, 1989. 220pp. paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-7710-7152-3. (M&S Paperback). CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Conspiracy of Silence is the story of a crime against humanity—and against one helpless girl—even more horrible than the infamous Marshall affair. On November 13, 1971, in The Pas, Manitoba. Helen Betty Osborne, a nineteen-year-old girl, was viciously butchered and her naked body left lying in the woods.

Four young men dragged the screaming girl from the street into a car and took her to the secluded area where the murder took place. The townspeople, including the local sheriff, soon knew perfectly well exactly who had been involved in the crime-but they said nothing. The boys were white, and the victim, Betty, was Indian.

For sixteen years the frightful murder went unpunished. Now, long after the event, one man of the four is in prison, three walked away. Known as "The Pas case," the murder of Betty Osborne is a terrible indictment of racism in action in Canada, of contempt for the law and of the disgraceful way in which differential justice is administered.

Lisa Priest, who covered the story for the Winnipeg Free Press, reconstructs the crime, follows the case through the courts, and interviews many of those involved, including the convicted man, the victim's family, and some of the townspeople. It is a harrowing tale baldly recounted, one that will anger and disturb any reader who mistakenly believed that such things could never happen in what is supposed to be a civilized country. A must for senior students interested in law, in any of the social sciences, or in studies of native Canadians in society.

Joan McGrath, Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, Ont.
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