Benefit concert planned for suicide victim
"I remember her enthusiasm, her desire to experience the good things life had to offer. It was really contagious. She brought great joy to my life." ~ By Amy Steele -- News Reporter
A photo taken of Jolie Angelina McNabb when she was 22 shows her in a revealing red dress and surrounded by fireweed. Her dark hair is up and a small smile plays upon her lips. She looks strikingly beautiful and sensuous. Yet three years later, this same woman killed herself at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Unable to deal with the pain of being sexually abused as a child, and her subsequent addiction to alcohol and drugs, she hanged herself on September 3. She was in jail on remand awaiting trial for four minor criminal charges. A coroner's inquest will be held into her death.
Alcohol brought out her anger and led to her troubles with the law, but she was actually a quiet and sensitive person, said Gary Bailie, her former common-law partner. Bailie sits in his house in McIntyre Village. A white candle flickers in front of him as he talks about the mother of his child. He wants her to be remembered as a special woman, not as a junkie or a drunk, he says. "She was an amazing woman with an irresistible sense of humor and kind and gentle ways. I remember her enthusiasm, her desire to experience the good things life had to offer. It was really contagious. She brought great joy to my life. She wanted to be free, to be with her family and to live a clean life. But she got caught up in (alcohol and drug abuse) like many other people. The abuse she suffered at her childhood home left such deep scars on her soul."
McNabb's mother was from the Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan. She gave birth to McNabb when she was 15. McNabb lived in a series of foster homes for the first eight years of her life before she was adopted by a family in the Yukon. She was abused at the foster homes, but her adoptive home became an even worse nightmare, says Bailie. "There, she suffered severe physical, mental and sexual abuses at the hands of her father.
One of the things he did was to kill his daughter's pets. Her mother denied what was going on and sent McNabb to therapy where she was given tranquilizers. Later, her father, who was a prominent citizen, was tried on sexual abuse charges but only served a short time in jail. "He should've served a life sentence for what he did to her," says Bailie.
When Bailie first met McNabb, she was 17 and didn't use drugs or alcohol, he says. McNabb loved the outdoors, and the couple would go on walks, cross-country skiing and camping trips together, he says. They had a daughter together a couple of years later. It was shortly after Stacity was born that McNabb turned to alcohol and drugs. "I've been told people who have been sexually abused tend to come undone shortly after they have their first child," says Bailie. "McNabb discovered cocaine as an escape", he says. She also drank heavily. Bailie recalls how drug dealers would prey on her because she was so vulnerable and lacked self-esteem. "I didn't see her much. She was gone all the time. She sought out like-minded people."
Whenever she came home, Bailie would nurse her back to health but soon she'd leave again. "I realized I couldn't get angry because that would scare her away," he explains. Eventually, the couple split up. But they remained friends. In the last 18 months of her life, McNabb had quit the drugs and was mainly drinking, says Bailie. All the while, she was trying to get help. She went to two addictions treatment centres, one in B.C., one in Alberta, as well as Crossroads in Whitehorse. Nothing worked for her. "You need people able to treat the issues and not the symptoms," says Bailie. "There are a lot of well-meaning, intelligent, caring people in the system, but Jolie was failed by the system. "Jolie just really needed someone she could trust. It was difficult for her to trust people because she'd been lied to and deceived throughout her life."
But even when she was battling with her addictions, McNabb always thought of her daughter, says Bailie. "She would come home for Christmas and Stacity's birthday and mother and child would spent a lot of time together", he says. "Stacity brought a lot of joy to Jolie. That was the part that made me the saddest." Bailie says he was shocked when he learned she had committed suicide. He talked with her the night before and she'd sounded fine. "She wanted to get her life on track. She talked to her daughter. I was filled with a renewed hope for her. It didn't sit right at all that this happened. She should've been watched. She needed help. She needed to be paid more attention to."
After Jolie died, Bailie decided to take her home to the Peepeekisis First Nation near Regina. There, her Plains Cree people conducted sweats, a pipe ceremony and sang traditional songs. She was given the name Blue Feather Eagle Woman by an elder and buried on their land. Bailie says he was told McNabb was going to a better place. "Who are we to question the Creator, when your burden's too heavy to carry you home," an elder said of McNabb's death. Her last name was legally changed from Robson to McNabb. Bailie didn't want her buried with any legacy of her abusive adoptive father.
Stacity and her Dad.After visiting with McNabb's people, Bailie says he felt like doing something to commemorate Jolie's life. So he's organized a benefit concert for this Sunday, starting at 4 p.m., at the Na Kwa Ta Ku Potlatch House in McIntyre Village. All of the proceeds from the event will go to the Youth of Today Society of Whitehorse, he says. Matthew Lien and the Caribou Commons, Terri-Lynn Puckett, Lori Malo, Kevin Barr, Manfred Janssen, David Gilmore and Mark Hoppe will perform at it.
"I'm doing my part not to dwell on the negative and anger but to move forward," says Bailie. We need to honor Jolie but also ourselves. If Jolie would've come to terms with everything, she would've been such an asset. She had so much to offer. She was amazing with some of her profound thoughts. She was beginning to discover things. She was on the verge of turning her life around. But she isn't totally gone because she lives on through her daughter, little Stacity", says Bailie. "She left behind the greatest gift anyone could. The gift of life. I look at my girl and see her mom's spirit and beauty.
"If anyone deserves to be an angel it's Jolie."