Freda Ens, who worked supporting families through the Robert Pickton case shares her experience with an audience of 80 during the MMIW gathering and information session at the Splatsin Centre in Enderby. (Erin Christie/Morning Star)

Missing women remembered at Enderby gathering

Between 1997 and 2000 the homicide rate for indigenous women was higher than non-indigenous women.

WATCH:

Brenda Wilson tries hard not to think about the milestones her sister has missed over 24 years following her death.

“Birthdays, weddings — her graduation. She will never experience those things because she was taken from us,” Wilson told the audience at a gathering in Enderby Monday morning.

For Murdered and Missing Women (MMIW) Drone Search Team leader, Jody Leon Wilson’s story highlights the need to keep the five women who have gone missing from the North Okanagan over the last two years at the forefront of people’s minds.

Caitlin Potts, 27; Ashley Simpson, 32; Deanna Wertz, 46; Nicole Bell, 31 and Traci Genereaux, 18 were reported missing between March 2016 and September 2017 — human remains found at a Silver Creek property between Vernon and Salmon Arm in November 2017 were later confirmed to be those of Genereaux.

The event, hosted by Splatsin First Nation, included caseworkers, MMIW advocates, members of the MMIW Drone Search Team, Splatsin First Nation and members of local law enforcement.

Ramona Wilson was 16 in 1994 when she disappeared from Smithers, where she and her family had been living.

In April 1995, 10 months after her disappearance, Ramona’s family received the form of closure Wilson said most families of missing women never get.

Her sister’s remains were located in a shallow grave along a treeline by the local airport — just outside of town.

“It wasn’t her body, it was her remains that were found,” Wilson said.

“We were told we had to go down to the police station to identify her and when we walked in there was a table like the one I am standing behind right now, and they had laid out all of her belongings. The thing I will never forget is the smell,” she recalled as her voice began to crack.

“I could smell the earth on her clothing… that will never leave me.”

Ramona’s case — like so many that occurred between Prince Rupert and Prince George — remains unsolved.

The Highway of Tears, as that corridor is now called, has been the site of the disappearance or the discovery of the remains of roughly 30 indigenous women since 1969.

A memorial walk for Ramona is held in June each year in Smithers. This year’s walk takes place June 9.

Freda Ens, who worked supporting families of the missing women through the Robert Pickton case as head of the Police and Native Liaison Society echoed Wilson’s frustration while describing the lengthy process of lobbying for recognition from various levels of government during the trial period.

“It took years for the pattern of disappearances to be recognized,” she said.

While Ens refused to comment on the context of her speech regarding Pickton at Monday’s gathering, which focused primarily on the four women missing from the North Okanagan, she offered advice to the families looking for answers.

“Whatever you do, don’t give up,” she said.

 

Brenda Wilson is comforted by her colleagues and supporters as she recounts the story of her sister, Ramona, who was murdered in 1994 in Smithers, during the MMIW gathering and information session hosted by the MMIW Drone Search Team at the Splatsin Centre in Enderby Monday morning. From left, Freda Ens, Brenda Wilson, Terri Chhina and Katherine Thwaites. (Erin Christie/Morning Star)

Just Posted

Mounties delayed crash clean-up, Tuesday traffic into Kelowna backed up for hours

A Tuesday traffic jam is being attributed to RCMP keeping lanes closed for a scene analysis

Central Okanagan School Board defends SOGI 123 initiative

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity inclusivity program sparks emotional debate

Wildfire sparks near perimeter of devastating 2017 Elephant Hill fire

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 50 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

UPDATE: Rutland residents forced from home due to late night fire

Rutland Road South has been blocked off at Highway 33 while crews work to douse a fire

Okanagan Regional Library names new CEO

Don Nettleton, who has been with ORL for 24 years, takes over from Stephanie Hall

Stranded couple rescued from Mission Creek

Rescue personnel brought two people ashore from an island after their rafts were swept away.

Olympian to lead Penticton Peach Festival parade

One of the top bobsled pilots in the world will lead the Peters Bros. Grand Parade

Two-year-old found unresponsive in pool

Mission RCMP located toddler after she went missing from a local daycare

Surrey RCMP issue warning after third sexual assault this week

It is the third sexual assault since Sunday

Toronto opening 800 emergency spaces to deal with influx of refugee claimants

Beginning Thursday, Toronto will temporarily house refugee claimants and new arrivals in 400 beds in the city’s east end.

Breaking: Trump cancels summit with North Korea

Trump cancels June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim, citing ‘tremendous anger and open hostility’ in recent statement

Rivers rising: Floods in B.C., New Brunswick a warning of what’s to come

In B.C., thousands of residents are returning to homes this week marked with red or yellow signs indicating a health inspection is necessary

North Korea demolishes nuke test site with series of blasts

North Korea has carried out what it says is the demolition of its nuclear test site in the presence of foreign journalists.

Penticton homeless campers devastated by park cleanup

Two women, in their 50s and 60s, said they felt like giving up after their only home was cleared out

Most Read