People gather along Highway 16, also known as the Highway of Tears, on Sept. 20 for the return of 18-year-old Jessica Patrick’s remains. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC) One year after the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls made its stop in the northern B.C. community of Smithers, there is another funeral being held. Another young woman’s life cut short.
Jessica Patrick was laid to rest on Tuesday. Her remains were found outside of town on Sept. 15. She was 18.
The North District Major Crimes Unit of the RCMP is investigating her death.
"At this point, the cause of death remains under investigation and no further information is available," wrote an RCMP media relations officer when asked about the status of the case.
While the police might not have much to say right now, there is lots of talk in the alpine-themed town and surrounding communities about her death.
The loss of yet another young, Indigenous woman here has renewed energy behind demands for justice and change. People packed into the friendship centre for her memorial last weekend, in the same building where one year ago people came to share their truths and recommendations to the national inquiry.
Patrick had been missing for just over two weeks when her body was found down a steep, wooded slope on Hudson Bay Mountain. One of the places she was last seen was leaving the Mountain View Motel, located at the edge of town on Highway 16. Participants in the ‘Tears 4 Justice’ walk complete their journey from Prince Rupert, B.C., to Smithers in September 2017 for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Briar Stewart/CBC) A year ago dozens of people, including commissioners from the national inquiry and long-time MMIWG advocates, walked right past this motel on the last stretch of their 300 km journey from Prince Rupert to Smithers as part of the annual Tears 4 Justice walk.
The walk was organized as a way to raise awareness about the deaths and disappearances along this highway, known to many as the Highway of Tears. Advocates estimate since 1969 more than 40 women and girls, mostly Indigenous, have gone missing or been murdered along this 700 km stretch of highway. ‘We haven’t done enough’
Terry Teegee, B.C. Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, came to Smithers to attend the memorial for Jessica Patrick. He is a cousin of Patrick’s father.
He’s experienced this kind of loss in his family before. Teegee’s cousin Ramona Wilson was 16 when she went missing from Smithers in 1994. The teen’s body was found nearly a year later and nobody was ever charged in relation to her death. Matilda Wilson holds up a picture of her youngest child, Ramona, who disappeared in 1994. She wants justice for her daughter’s unsolved murder. (CBC) He said being at Patrick’s funeral and seeing Ramona’s family there, he thought to himself, what’s changed?
"We haven’t done enough. I just think there’s no more excuses. We can’t have any more excuses," he said.
Teegee said putting an end to the disappearances and deaths is a huge task because of the multiple underlying factors involved: intergenerational trauma, domestic violence, the child welfare system, racism — the list goes on.
"This isn’t new, this is some of the things we’ve seen in other reports," he said, in reference to previous studies like the Highway of Tears symposium in 2006.
He said he suspects the national inquiry’s final report will repeat much of what has been reported before, and will likely further highlight what a daunting task it’s going to be to change things.
"And regardless if it’s a […]
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