Tanya Jean Brooks, a Mi’kmaq woman in Halifax, was found murdered five years ago this weekend. Can we solve this?

Tanya Jean Brooks, an Aboriginal Canadian woman, was found murdered — in the window well of a church school, no less — on Monday, May 11, 2009. That’s five years ago tomorrow. The case still hasn’t been solved. There’s some detail on her timeline/whereabouts here, but essentially her whereabouts are unknown from 9pm Sunday until 2pm Monday, when her body was discovered. One interesting element is this: she had five children of her own, but in this funeral home announcement, there’s no reference made to any type of father/significant other.

This is a longer-form magazine article written two years after her disappearance with a scant smattering of clues. For example:

Connie spoke to Tanya in the afternoon and police estimate she died around 9 p.m. In the days after the murder, a man living near the school told a reporter he had seen a gang of men following a woman down an alley the night Tanya died.

There’s also this, which changes a lot of the context of the discussion:

Tanya grew up in Millbrook before running away to Toronto at 16. She later returned to Nova Scotia and raised her four boys and a girl, who today range in age from 10 to 21. When she was 30, a friend produced a needle and tempted Tanya with a better high than alcohol. “They say that if one needle, you like the feeling, then you’re hooked—if you don’t like the feeling, then no,” Connie says. “I guess she liked the feeling.”

The next few years were dominated by the search for more of the drug, likely heroin, which led to Tanya’s apparent stint in the sex trade. According to friends and family, Tanya was clean in spring 2009, planning to enroll at NSCC to take a new direction with her life.

There’s a series of unsolved murders tied to Halifax, dating back to 1955. Some are of Aboriginal women, and others are of locals:

It seems like what happened in the Tanya Jean Brooks case is this: initially, the case had a lot of steam because it was semi-sensational (mother of five found in a window well of a church school), but once the police uncovered more backstory around the drug use and sex trade and running away, the case gradually faded from active. There is a stigma around that — I know that sometimes when I research different things on Crimesider or other blogs, if I see a long history of drug abuse and running away, I’m less inclined to continue researching. It’s not necessarily that I view it as a “lost cause” but I also think that people who had time running in those circles can almost “disappear” more easily. It’s a shame that Tanya Brooks had those five children, and hopefully the culprits here — be it a gang of men or someone working alone — are found eventually.


Ted Bauer