The body of Deanna Desjarlais was found in 2016 in Surrey’s Hawthorne Park. (Supplied by Dana Morenstein) A public inquest will be held into the death of a Saskatchewan Indigenous woman whose body was found in a British Columbia park.
Deanna Renee Desjarlais, who was 27, was originally from Saskatoon and a member of the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Desjarlais, who was a sex-trade worker with addiction problems, came to B.C. in late 2015. She had numerous contacts with the health, justice and social services sectors in the months that followed.
She was last heard from in April 2016 and her family reported her missing a month later.
Desjarlais was found dead in Surrey’s Hawthorne Park in May 2016, but she was not identified until that September. ‘I’m sick of it’
Family friend Dana Morenstein said news of the inquest brought mixed emotions for her — and Desjarlais’ family.
“Happy that it’s happening, but upset. It just brings up a lot of memories that are upsetting,” Morenstein said.
She said the family has known an inquest was brewing for some months and is in touch with the coroner.
She and Dejarlais’ family hope to get some degree of justice from the inquest.
“I’m just pissed off. I’m sick of it,” she sighed.
“I know things take time and I’m excited to hear what the inquest has to say, but it’s frustrating.”
Police weren’t forthcoming about details of Desjarlais’ death, Morenstein said, and she believes that her death was not adequately investigated. Inquest can’t assign blame
The independent inquest into her death will be held May 7 in Burnaby, B.C. It will look into the circumstances surrounding Desjarlais’ death and come up with recommendations that could prevent similar deaths.
It cannot find assign blame or legal responsibility. That doesn’t sit right with Morenstein.
“Who’s accountable? Can those recommendations be implemented?” she asked.
After Desjarlais’ body was found, a family friend questioned what police did before her remains were identified, and why it never publicly released a missing person bulletin with a photo of Desjarlais.Vancouver police said at the time that it seriously investigated Desjarlais as a missing person, even though it didn’t issue a media release.A spokesperson said police get about 5,000 missing person reports every year, and putting out a dozen releases a day would become “white noise.” With files from Angela Sterritt
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