PENTICTON - Members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance gathered in front of Penticton courthouse today, Jan. 15, to protest the marginalization of missing native women and demand justice for the death of Roxanne Louie.
Okanagan Nation member Coola Louis, who is also women’s representative for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said she was at the courthouse to support the family, saying the image of aboriginal women portrayed by the media, police and government was disturbing.
“These are mothers, sisters, daughters and human beings,” she said. “And the fact they focus on, or assume their ultimate demise is because of a situation is appalling.”
She said the police and politicians need to take a good look at their situations and issues of racism in our society. Louie's death comes as the country struggles to understand why aboriginal women are so much more likely to be murdered or go missing. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has so far declined to hold an inquiry to study to the problem.
Laurie Wilson, media contact for Roxanne Louie’s family, pointed to police comments in this investigation as emblematic of the problem.
“From the very first interview on TV that was done, the RCMP officer did make the comment, ‘well we hope that she’s just partying, we hope that she’s just having a good time and that she’ll return," she said. "I have not been able to find another comment like that in a missing person’s case, and this is part of the marginalization that we’re fighting against.”
Wilson suggested the comment limited resources available to Louie’s search by half, including the loss of potential reward offerings. She said the comment could have been ameliorated by adding there was concern and that a concentrated search was continuing.
“The family was very upset by that, and we’re here to bring awareness to that issue, as well as demanding justice for Roxanne,” said Wilson. “Our nation has suffered a great loss here.”
She said Louie was a great mother, who was able to connect with people wherever she went and had a two million dollar smile.
“She was full of life with an amazing sense of style,” Wilson said. “At the time that this happened she was living in Vancouver, she had a car and an apartment. She was living life to the full.”
Wilson touched on Louie’s relationship with Grace Robotti, her accused murderer, saying there may have been issues that she hoped would come out in court.
“There are people who say things about the state of their relationship and how Roxanne felt nervous about what they would do to her, but those are assumptions and rumours, and hopefully the police will work very hard to get that information out of her family and friends and be able to do something with that.”
Wilson also clarified the relationship between Louie and Robotti, calling Robotti an 'ex' in-law.
“The person charged with the murder is the great-grandmother of her son, and I understand that grandmother raised the father (whose name is Dylan) of Louie’s son,” Wilson said. “The grandmother who has the child now is the mother of Dylan. I don’t know how that came to be, I know the grandmother raised Dylan, so she did play a mother role for Dylan and a (great) grandmother role to Roxanne’s son.”
Wilson appealed to members of the community to come forward with any information they might have regarding Louie’s family relationships.
The assembly took place prior to the second court appearance of Grace Elinor Robotti and Pier Louis Robotti, both accused in Louie murder.
Friends and family of Louie filled the courtroom as Judge Koturbash noted it was in the interest of the community to have the accused appear on Thursday morning.
Defence lawyer Robert Maxwell requested a two-week remand, which Judge Koturbash granted. Grace and Pier Robotti’s next appearance in court is scheduled for Jan. 28.
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