Families of missing Shuswap women call for action

Birthday of missing woman Ashley Simpson remembered during rally in Yankee Flats

Ashley Simpson’s 34th birthday was honoured not with celebration but with ceremony and a call to action.

Leading that call was Jody Leon, who organized a gathering Thursday evening – the day after Simpson’s birthday – at a bridge in the south end of the Yankee Flats area – where Simpson had resided before her disappearance.

“We were not able to come out on yesterday’s date… Nevertheless, it’s still very important that we’re here to honour all the women that went missing in this area,” said Leon to an intimate crowd of supporters, including Simpson’s aunt, Marney Portugaise, as well as Dennis and Jane Aubertin, the parents of Malakwa resident Nicole Bell who was last seen in Sicamous on Sept. 2.

“We want to keep their memory alive. We want to say gone but not forgotten. These women are important, and it’s important to keep their stories in the spotlight until we have resolution on every last sister that is missing.

“This bridge is one of the bridges that’s a connector to… three of the women who we know have gone missing in this area. So we’ve got Ashley Simpson who went missing not to far from here, Deanna Wertz and Traci Genereaux, whose remains were found on the Sagmoen farm not far from here. On the other side, not too far connecting that way, we have Nicole Bell. On the side that way, we have Caitlin Potts.”

During the ceremony, Portugaise and the Aubertins held up a banner saying, No More Stolen Sisters. A second, smaller banner next to it said, Ashleys Army… Never Give Up, naming the four local missing women as well as Genereaux.

Leon and Portugaise encouraged anyone with information related to the missing women to come forward.

“It’s a long road, but we’re going to make it because we’re not going to stop,” said a teary-eyed Portugaise. “It’s time that everybody takes a step forward for these women – and people, never mind just women, everyone in general. The world has become a sad place and it’s time to take it back.”

After the ceremony at the bridge, the caravan left for Salmon Arm to go door-to-door in the 10th Street SW area as police did on Oct. 30, canvassing residents in their search for Bell.

“It was really good,” said Leon the following day. “People were really good to us. Some of them invited us into their homes, talked with us and took the poster and agreed to do something more. Some of them agreed we could come back and search around with drones on their property. So it was really good.”

Leon said the families of the missing women have been grateful for the support she and others have provided, for bringing them together and helping to give them a voice.

“I talk with them behind the scenes as well and try to connect them up with help,” said Leon. “And I’ve also been introducing them to each other. There’s other work that goes on that people don’t know about behind the scenes. And talking with them and just listening to them about their pain…

“All the families of the murdered and missing – they want something to do about it. They want to help the police, they want to be out searching, they want to be out passing posters out. But they don’t have the strength to make that action happen. And so, the fact that they’re not here, down on the ground, they don’t know the area, they don’t know where to go or how to rally people. That’s a function I kind of see myself being the ground person here… So they are really grateful.”

The next step for Leon and company is a drone-assisted search being conducted this Saturday, Nov. 18.


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Public tokers to be singed with fines in West Kelowna

West Kelowna passes bylaw to fine anyone that smokes cannabis in public $500

Experts gather to discuss Okanagan water needs

Kelowna environmental water flows conference Oct. 17-18 has global reach

UBC Okanagan nursing students host gala fundraising event

Medical clinics in Ghana and Zambia will benefit from the gala

UBC Okanagan welcomes alumni and the community to campus event

Homecoming is a chance to rediscover and reconnect with the campus

Kelowna still waiting for first legal pot shop application

Despite anticipating ‘hundreds’ of applications, the city has yet to receive one

Sunny skies for the week ahead

Environment Canada is forecasting clear skies for the Okanagan and Shuswap

Mega Millions prize of $654M is nation’s 4th-largest

No one has won the U.S. jackpot in almost three months

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Shuswap goat delivery way above quota

Hillside Dreams Callekno produced sextuplets, a rare event among goats

South Okanagan man alleged to have exposed genitals to children

Penticton RCMP said incident occurred at the Kiwanis Park

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Most Read