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Vernon rally draws attention to missing and murdered indigenous women

Meagan Louis (left), Emily Wilson and Jody Leon (right) join other community members drumming and singing outside the Vernon Courthouse Feb. 14, 2017.
February 14, 2017 - 2:56 PM

VERNON - For local woman Meagan Louis, a rally for missing and murdered indigenous women today in Vernon hit close to home. 

Louis’ cousin, Danita Faith Big Eagle, disappeared on Feb. 11, 2007 in Regina, Sask.

“(She) vanished without a trace, on the street. Nobody knows anything about her. We continue to search as her family,” Louis says.

Louis and other community members gathered on the steps of the Vernon courthouse today, Feb. 14, drumming, singing and standing in solidarity for missing and murdered women across the country.

Executive director of the North Okanagan John Howard Society Barb Levesque gives a speech at the missing and murdered indigenous women rally Feb. 14, 2017.
Executive director of the North Okanagan John Howard Society Barb Levesque gives a speech at the missing and murdered indigenous women rally Feb. 14, 2017.

“I’m holding vigil here, spreading the word as much as I can,” Louis, who hails from the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, says.

A 2014 report from the RCMP showed 1,181 police-recorded cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women from 1980 to 2012, of which 164 were missing and 1,017 were murder victims. Canada’s federal Indigenous Affairs Minister has said the real number is much higher.

Jody Leon on the steps of the Vernon Courthouse.
Jody Leon on the steps of the Vernon Courthouse.

In Vernon, three women remain missing: Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson and Deana Wertz. All three went missing within months of each other in the North Okanagan, although police say the cases are not connected.

At least three other First Nations women and teenagers from the North Okanagan area were reported missing in 2016, but were found.

Jody Leon, of the Splatsin and Lake Babine Nations, lives close to where missing woman Caitlin Potts was last seen in Enderby and doesn’t believe the case is being taken seriously enough.

“I’ve only seen one road block by the RCMP questioning people in that area, and so to me, as a resident… I don’t see them actively engaging in any other type of investigative actions,” Leon says.

Over the past few years, Feb. 14 has emerged as a day to acknowledge missing and murdered indigenous women.

“We don’t want our sisters to be forgotten and so we come today in honour of their memory, in honour of their lives and to ask for justice, and to continue to ask for people to watch over our sisters where they may be,” Leon says.

An inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women is moving ahead to look at the systemic causes of violence against indigenous women and girls. Specific dates have not yet been set for the hearings.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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