Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, listens to an RCMP announcement at a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, March 18, 2016. Helicopters and a specialized military aircraft scoured from the air while armed police took to the ground over northern Manitoba in a hunt for two suspects of murders in British Columbia. Some advocates say it’s a stark contrast to resources applied to searches for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba manhunt shows lack of resources for missing Indigenous women: advocates

The massive manhunt has gripped the country since Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, went missing

Helicopters and a specialized military aircraft scoured from the air while armed police took to the ground over northern Manitoba in a hunt for two suspects of murders in British Columbia.

Some advocates say it’s a stark contrast to resources applied to searches for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

READ MORE: Police probe ‘suspicious vehicle’ thought to be linked to B.C. fugitives in northern Ontario

“It is a little bit eyebrow raising because of the different response,” says Sheila North, a former grand chief and advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“The effort that they are going through to try and find them … could trigger a lot of things for people who do their own searches.”

The massive manhunt has gripped the country since Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were named last week as suspects in three killings. University professor Leonard Dyck and Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were found dead last month in northern B.C.

North said it’s important the suspects are caught because they could pose a serious risk to the public.

But she wonders where the same sense of urgency is when an Indigenous woman or girl can’t be found.

North recalls the case of Jennifer Catcheway in 2008. She was last seen in Portage la Prairie, Man. on the night of her 18th birthday. When Wilfred and Bernice Catcheway notified police their daughter was missing, they were told she was probably out partying, North said.

For more than a decade, the Catcheways have conducted their own search of rivers, lakes, forests and nearby First Nations.

North says she’s also reminded of 51-year-old grandmother, Mildred Flett, who was last seen in Winnipeg in 2010. Her ex-husband has said it was difficult to get police to pay attention to her case.

Flett was from the Testaskweyak Cree Nation in Split Lake, Man., where missing person posters of her remain. Schmegelsky and McLeod were spotted in the same community before a vehicle they were travelling in was found in nearby Gillam, leading police to focus their search in that area.

North said there are more than 1,200 relatives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls watching as Mounties do everything they can to find the two murder suspects. They may also be wondering why they couldn’t have received more help, she adds.

“Families that do their own searches are feeling a little bit let down and not respected in the same way as these other families are,” she said.

Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte has seen many families struggle to organize searches as the co-chair of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), a grassroots group that supports families of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Saskatchewan.

Her cousin, Shelley Napope, 16, was murdered by serial killer John Martin Crawford in 1992.

Okemaysim-Sicotte says she supports efforts to find Schmegelsky and McLeod and that no life is worth more than another.

But the manhunt for them has made it clear that there is the means, money and public support to conduct a large-scale search when needed, she says.

Okemaysim-Sicotte hopes people will remember that the next time an Indigenous woman or girl is missing.

“The world is watching it, she says.

Here’s the latest in the manhunt for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky:

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

Start of school pushed back in Langley

Teachers will get more time to prepare for the changed classroom environment

Displaced tenant ‘heartbroken’ after Langley City condo robbed after fire

Wedding rings of Michelle Buchan’s have since been recovered, but much is still missing

GREEN BEAT: 140 citizen scientists blitz Langley, uncovering rare species and more

Rare sightings of map turtles, a western fence lizard, not to mention, dog vomit slime were recorded

Mardi Gras parade being made in Fort Langley

The video will be shown at the Fort Langley ‘Virtual’ Jazz and Arts Festival in early September

Langley’s Critter Care now selling face masks of the animals they rescue

Wildlife centre launches online swag store mid-pandemic to help fund its rescues

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Canucks fan risks life to celebrate at Surrey intersection

‘All fun and games until somebody falls out an open side door of the van’

‘Agitated’ man pulls out knife on 3 people in Abbotsford

Witnesses sought for incident on Monday night near city hall

FoodMesh taking its emergency food recovery project nationwide

Pilot project in Chilliwack helped show that food surpluses could be diverted to charities in need

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Most Read