Snow and sub-zero temperatures forced the postponement of the 2nd Annual Walk for Missing & Murdered Women, Men and Children in Duncan on Feb. 9. But only the walk portion was postponed; organizer Monica Patsy Jones invited people into a nearby Cowichan gym where they were served free refreshments and witnessed ceremonies for the families of the missing and/or murdered residents of Duncan, B.C.
The smell of burning sage filled the hall as cultural healers offered brushings and prayers in a separate room. Ushers welcomed people into the warmth of the gym.
Seated at a head table were the immediate family members of five missing or murdered Cowichan Tribes members.
The cases go back to 1977 with the unsolved case of Monica Patsy Jones' sister, whose remains were found six months after she went missing from Duncan. Her death was ruled a homicide and was never solved.
In 2011, 18 year-old Tyeshia Jones went missing from an area near Duncan's Superstore; her remains were found a few days later not far from where she went missing. Her case was solved when William Gordon Robert Elliott, then 24, was eventually convicted of second degree murder. Elliott also pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of Karrie Ann Stone, 42, also of Duncan, in 2010.
At the head table were the parents and siblings of three Cowichan Tribes men who disappeared from the same general area in downtown Duncan over a period of 10 years.
Desmond Peter was 14 when he went missing 13 years ago. His mother Liz Louie said her main wish is to see him walk in the door. “But if it's for the worse, then the hope is that he is found, whereever he is out there,” said the tearful mother.
Ian Henry, missing for three years, also has family waiting for answers. It would have been his 31st birthday yesterday, said his father. “I'm like a wolf in the mountains still crying in the wind for my son,” he said
Elder Myra Charlie is the mother of Everett Jones, 47, who went missing near her home in Feb. 2009. Jones' father is from Pacheedaht First Nation.
While Jones was older than the other two missing men, he had the mentality of a preteen and was considered vulnerable, according to the RCMP.
“Some people may think he didn't have much to offer but he would help people. He would come home telling me he helped an old lady or he'd help clear snow like this (there was snow in Duncan that day). He was so kind,” said Charlie.
His mother says he would not have left on his own. “He knew he needed to be home. I feel like something awful happened. We need some answers,” said Charlie.
“There has been nothing. Nothing of him was ever found. No news.” said Charlie.
She went on to say that her son was a gentle, loving man who would want her to continue living for the other family members. “A big part is missing but I have to be strong,” said Charlie.
Mary Jim is the mother of late Tyeshia Jones who was taken eight years ago. “I am related to Liz (Louie) and Myra (Charlie),” said Jim.
She said she immediately knew something was wrong when her daughter didn't answer her phone. She knows what the other mothers are going through. “The tears never stop,” said Jim.
Jim continues to go to gatherings and walks in an effort raise awareness to the dangers for young people. “We need to make our young people more aware, tell them to always watch their surroundings,” she advised.
Glenn Patterson got the gathering underway with the singing of Lakota prayer songs for the people and other groups came forward to pray and offer words of support.
“These people were taken violently; we don't know by who or why. But it happened right here in this community,” said speaker Johnathan Joe.
Is there something wrong with the system? Is the problem with the town or country? These are the kinds of questions being asked, he continued.
Monica Patsy Jones was disappointed that no chiefs attended the gathering but the bitter, cold weather seemed to have impacted the overall turnout at the second annual gathering with only a couple of hundred people attending, as opposed to 1,000 attendees the year before.
But there were municipal representatives, Duncan’s mayor and city council, the mayor and council for the municipality of North Cowichan, Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Fursteneau and Cowichan/Malahat/Langford MP Alistair MacGregor.
Guests were served lunch and the event wound down with a blanketing ceremony for the families of the lost loved ones.