Ashley Callingbull speaks out about being a survivor of physical, mental, and sexual abuse in a candid new interview with Fashion.
The 31-year-old from Alberta is not afraid to speak up for others, especially when it comes to issues of mental health, self-confidence, and her Indigenous culture.
Callingbull, who was crowned Miss Canada in 2010 and Mrs. Universe in 2015, tells the publication she will continue to voice her opinion even if it sets non-Indigenous people off: “I’m not speaking against Canadians; I’m speaking for Indigenous people.
“A lot of Canadians don’t want to hear the truth, but truth is our power.”
Callingbull was five years old when she and her mother left their home in Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta for Maskwacis (formerly known as Hobbema) to live with her mother’s boyfriend.
He had a “charming persona” that covered up the terrible things he did to people, stating the abuse started not long after the move. Her mom didn’t know about it because he threatened to kill them both, with the abuse continuing for five years before they escaped.
Callingham was 10 years old when she had to testify in court, telling herself she’d never speak out again after the abuser and his family laughed at her.
She turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain before her kokum Charlotte Callingbull urged her to stay on the “red road”, which is a path to wellness. The inspirational star says many Indigenous people have yet to break the cycle of harm.
Callingbull says her own abuser was abused by his parents, who experienced the same while attending residential school.
“Everything they did to his parents, his parents did to him and then he did to me,” she says, insisting this behaviour isn’t necessarily a thing of the past.
Callingbull also discusses the remains of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three, being found near the former site of Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Her moshom (grandfather) George attended St. Albert Youville residential school in Edmonton from 1944 to 1948, its last year of operation, where he had “boiling water” thrown over him after arriving only speaking Cree.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation uncovered the names of 46 children who had died at the Catholic-run institution, Fashion writes.
Charlotte, who sadly passed away in 2006, attended Ermineskin Indian Residential School in 1953-1962 where she “watched children starve and get put in cages.”
Callingbull also reveals how her grandmother told her that a priest would impregnate young girls and then dispose of their babies.
The model, who insists she will continue to speak up, says she hopes that the recent heartbreaking discoveries of bodies found on several former residential school sites serve as a turning point for Canada.
She tells the publication, “It wasn’t just a system that was trying to civilize us; it was genocide, and people need to accept that.”