Jody Leon(right), an advocate on women’s issues and missing and murdered Indigenous women, prepares to offer a smudge to the people gathered for the candlelight vigil Nov. 2 in honour of Nicole Bell and other missing or murdered women in the area. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Candlelight vigil honours the memory of Nicole Bell and other missing B.C. women

Friends and supporters share memories, grief and healing moments

During the evening of Nov. 2, outside a small cafe in Malakwa in B.C.’s Interior, a group of people gathered to honour the memory of Nicole Bell and several other missing and murdered women. Grief hung thick in the air, but so did hope, and a sense of unity in remembering the women and striving for resolution.

Nicole Bell went missing in September 2017 and has not been seen since. She is one of five women who have gone missing in the North Okanagan-Shuswap over the past two years – Caitlin Potts, Deanna Wertz, Ashley Simpson and Tracy Genereaux, whose remains were found on a farm in Silver Creek. They and many other women in B.C. and across Canada have gone missing over the years with few answers regarding their disappearance or what will be done to find them.

Related: Documentary series investigates missing women

Led by Jody Leon, founder of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Drone Search Team, the vigil incorporated Secwépemc traditions to help cope with the grief caused by the disappearances and to share memories of Nicole Bell, who would have been celebrating her 33rd birthday on Nov. 2.

“In discussion with her family, it was decided we would hold a rally, a vigil, and bring awareness that it was her birthday, to ask people to think of Nicole,” Leon said while addressing the gathering. “She was a daughter, she was a sister and she was a mother, and her life mattered. So the fact we are here a year later and we don’t know Nicole’s whereabouts, by coming into ceremony like this, we call upon justice.”

Related: One year later: No updates in death of Vernon teen found on farm

While remembering Bell, several in attendance expressed the strong impact she had made on their lives, recalling a positive energy she passed on to others. Jesse Gallant, who grew up near Bell and would often babysit her three children, said his heart goes out to Bell’s children who have to develop a strength beyond their young age.

The vigil was held on Nicole Bell’s birthday, but it also served as an outlet to remember other women who have gone missing in B.C.’s Interior, and throughout the province.

Related: Driver’s license of missing Ashley Simpson found in northern B.C.

“In the Secwepemc Nation we also had one of our young sisters who was 18 years old, her name was Traci Genereaux, her human remains were found on a farm not far from here. We also have other women within the nation who are missing like Nicole. We have Caitlin Potts, we have Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz and, as I have said, Nicole Bell,” Leon said. “So by coming together in a vigil like this we remember them and we call for justice for these women. We know Indigenous women alone are over 4,000 in numbers who are missing or murdered and have not returned home on nights like tonight.”

Related: Courthouse steps protest leads Sagmoen bail hearing in Vernon

 

Candles, artifacts, First Nations medicines and memories of several missing women were placed near their photographs to honour their memory during the candlelight vigil Nov. 2 at the Malakwa Cafe. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

A group of supporters stand with candles and posters containing images of missing women in the Shuswap area outside the Malakwa Cafe Nov. 2, as part of a vigil held on what would have been Nicole Bell’s 33rd birthday. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Jody Leon leads a hand-drumming song during the candlelight vigil Nov. 2 at the Malakwa Cafe. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Heat taken down by Thunderbirds

The women’s volleyball team fell to the Thunderbirds Saturday night

MacEwan uses strong second quarter to topple Heat

MacEwan Griffins seal fifth win of the season

Kootnekoff: Federal Employment law changes

Federal Bill C-86 received royal assent on Dec. 13, 2018. The Bill… Continue reading

Heat get hot start Saturday night

The Heat defeated the MacEwan Griffins

Day one of Hometown Hockey in West Kelowna

Special guests, music, games, and free pizza! Hometown Hockey countinues on Sunday.

Find me my furever home: Mittens and Boots

Meet Mittens and Boots who are available for adoption at the Kelowna BC SPCA

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Announcement made Saturday evening from Europe

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay

Some say a lack of action could trigger a ‘public tsunami’

Group challenges ruling for doctors to give referrals for services that clash with beliefs

A group of five Canadian doctors and three professional organizations is appealing

Major winter storm wreaks havoc on U.S. travel

Nearly 5,000 flights were cancelled Sunday around the country

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

Most Read