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Stabbing victim’s family joins call for justice system changes

The family of a teen killed at a bar in Sexsmith hopes sharing their experience will help lead to changes to the justice system. 18 year old Donald Moberly was fatally stabbed at the Sexsmith Hotel’s Alamo Bar in the early morning hours of October 25, 2015, and passed away in hospital.

The suspect in his death was found not guilty by a jury last November. Police had said the victims didn’t know him.

A group gathered outside the Grande Prairie courthouse Tuesday afternoon to talk about the case and others involving Indigenous people like Joey English, Cindy Gladue, Colten Boushie, and Tina Fontaine. Community member Walter White says it’s time for a shift in the way Indigenous people are viewed.

“It’s one of those horrible events; there’s no justice. The guy admitted to it, [there was] video evidence of him doing it, and for anybody else it would be a slam dunk case.”

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Members of Moberly’s family also shared their stories, saying they felt they didn’t have a voice in the trial. His mother MaryLynne Moberly expressed despair that no one has been held responsible.

“A stranger’s actions took my son’s life away. Twelve other strangers said that was okay, but the worst pain of all is the reality, the end result of that one night: if I want to kiss my son, I have to kiss that box,” she told the crowd, referring to a carved box on display along with photos of Moberly.

“I know that right now he would want this to happen to make a difference,” Moberly’s sister Courtney Moberly added. “I used to be ashamed of being Aboriginal; I used to wish I wasn’t… but I’m proud to be Aboriginal now.”

The stabbing sent three other young men to hospital, and a Canada-wide warrant was issued for the suspect. Jordan Joseph Wendland was arrested three days later in Chilliwack, B.C. and was charged with one count of second degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault. A preliminary hearing in September 2016 determined Wendland would be tried for manslaughter instead of the murder charge, and a nine day jury trial in Grande Prairie resulted in the not guilty verdict on all four counts.

Moberly’s brother Jeremy Moberly and cousin Trenton Dougall were also hurt in the fight, along with Liam Francois. Dougall’s aunt Angela Dougall believes that if there had been any Indigenous people on the jury, or if the trial had been held in front of a judge, the outcome would have been different. Moving forward, she’d like to see families of victims given more say in what charges are laid, and better consideration to cultural backgrounds during jury selection.

“It is supposed to be your peers and that wasn’t an option for us.”

Dougall hopes her nephew is remembered as a young man involved in the Indigenous community who loved spending time with his friends and is extremely missed by many.

“Donald had the type of smile that would light up a room. He loved quadding and mud bogging; he was that person that you never would forget.”

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