Cloverdale resident Jeeti Pooni in video posted to social media channels on Tuesday (June 11).

Cloverdale resident Jeeti Pooni in video posted to social media channels on Tuesday (June 11).

‘It’s a broken, dinosaur system’: Charges stayed in B.C. sex-assault case profiled in film

Film focuses on Surrey-are family and documents the abuse of three sisters in Williams Lake

A judicial stay of proceedings has been made in the sexual-assault case connected to Because We Are Girls, prompting one of three sisters profiled in the new documentary movie to send a four-minute video message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A Surrey-area family is the focus of the film, which debuted in May and documents the abuse of three sisters who grew up in Williams Lake decades ago.

Cloverdale resident Jeeti Pooni reacts to the court decision in a video posted to her social media channels Tuesday.

The movie chronicles the sisters’ account of childhood abuse.

READ MORE: Sisters, sexual abuse and one Surrey family’s bond in new movie ‘Because We Are Girls’

“My sisters and I chose to go through the criminal justice system to try and stop our abuser from harming other girls,” Pooni says in the video. “It was a 12-year journey. All I can say is the criminal justice system is so broken – it’s a broken, dinosaur system.

“Yesterday, a very important decision came down in our sexual assault case,” she says.

“Our case was stayed, meaning the charges were dropped, there will be no sentencing, even though our abuser was found guilty last year, April 6, 2018, for four out of six counts,” including two counts of indecent assault, one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

On Monday, a judge ruled that excessive court delays prevented the accused, Manjit Singh Virk, from getting a fair trial.

In the video posted to social media, Pooni says she doesn’t blame those who “don’t come forward, those that have been horrifically harmed by rape and sexual assault. I don’t blame them for staying silent.”

She says going through the justice “made my sisters and I feel, at the time, that we were unworthy, we didn’t matter, we were very disrespected, humiliated, and the process was very dehumanizing and extremely traumatizing, and it re-traumatized us over and over again over the past eight years the court has been trying our case.”

She calls on Crown Counsel to appeal the decision, and for an inquiry into the case “to help answer questions of all the wrongs, of all the delays that were offered to defense, all the adjournments, countless adjournments, that left my sisters and I shattered, time and time again.”

She asks to “sit down” with Trudeau, “so that you and your government can help enable those of us that have been harmed, and those of us who have been violated, help us live better, prosperous lives.

“We need special sexual-assault courts that deal with crimes of rape and these heinous violations,” she adds.

“We Canadians, even those of us who have been harmed, deserve a better justice system.”

Three years in the making, the Baljit Sangra-directed Because We Are Girls had its world premiere during Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival in early May, and days later opened the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver.

The movie reveals how the girls felt they couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse, for fear of “being shipped off to India” and being shunned for what happened.

“The biggest advantage he had was he knew we’d keep our mouths shut,” one of the sisters says of the accused, whose identity is kept out of the film.

“Any mention of him, there was no place in the film, no need,” Jeeti told the Now-Leader in April. “At the time the film was being shot, the court case was proceeding, so there were things we couldn’t share, but now that it’s all wrapping up, I think the important thing is that this story is not about him, it’s about the resilience of my sisters and I, and stepping into our power and standing up for ourselves and sharing our truth, no matter if we’re believed or not.

“The story is more about that, and also when you see my daughters in the film, that’s when it should really hit home that my sisters and I were once little girls just like that, right. It’s to show that innocence and wake up the community to stop blaming the girls and the women.”

On Thursday, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) announced that its film, Because We Are Girls, will play at Vancouver’s Vancity Theatre between July 5 and 11, for five screenings. Dates and times are posted to viff.org.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Wildlife biologist and educator Joanne Siderius was last year’s winner of the Suzy Hamilton Legacy Award for women environmentalists in the West Kootenay. Photo: Submitted
Hunter Jin shows off some homemade rice wraps. Donations poured into the Nelson Community Food Centre during the holidays. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Community Food Centre brings in $150k during holiday fundraising

The centre says the money will help address significant need in the city

Castlegar Sculpturewalk 2020 – 10 Year Anniversary Sand Sculpture. (Submitted/CBT)
CBT arts and culture grant program now accepting applications

Apply through the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read