Legacy of Lisa Marie Young to hang in Tofino

Eric Plummer, June 24, 2019

The next annual walk for Lisa Marie Young, who disappeared June 30, 2002, takes place in on Sunday, June 30, starting at the Nanaimo police station at 303 Prideaux St. (Ha-Shilth-Sa file photo)

Tofino, BC — 

As a symbol of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, Tofino will be getting an installation of red dresses, thanks to the initiative of a woman who lost her niece without a trace 17 years ago.

Carol Frank and her family have been living with unanswered questions and an inkling of hope since Lisa Marie Young disappeared in Nanaimo on June 30, 2002. The 21 year old was at a house party with friends, when Lisa left to get something to eat with a man she just met. She hasn’t been seen since, and as far as the family knows, clues uncovered by police have been scarce.

Lisa’s family knew something was wrong the following morning when she didn’t answer her cell phone. Her father, Don Young, had planned to help Lisa move into her new apartment.

“The last time I saw her she was really excited about moving,” said Lisa’s grandmother Cecilia Arnet, noting that she never heard of the young woman’s cell phone being traced during the search. “I didn’t know what happened to that phone. I’ve never seen anything about it.”

The untraced cell phone is a small part of the mystery that has left Lisa’s family in the dark since her disappearance. Carol Frank recalls that police didn’t start searching when the family became alarmed the Sunday morning after Lisa went missing, despite the urging from Lisa’s late mother, Joanne Young.

“[RCMP] came and talked to my sister right away and said that they needed her to be gone 48 hours before they reported her missing because she was an adult,” said Carol. “The police that interviewed my sister said, ‘I’m going to be off until Friday, I’ll get back to you Friday’.”

Instead, men from Lisa’s Tla-o-qui-aht community began combing areas of Nanaimo.

“It took them two months before they would do a search for Lisa,” Carol added of the police response. “It was our Tla-o-qui-aht men that came right away, organised and with tips, did searches in different areas.”

The family’s frustration with the initial police response has become a common theme among Nuu-chah-nulth who suddenly lost their females, and has helped to inform the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that recently completed. Cecilia and Carol both gave statements for the inquiry, and Carol was the only Nuu-chah-nulth representative to attend the ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec when the report was handed over to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau June 3.

Now Lisa’s aunt is looking to hang the legacy of her niece and other lost Indigenous women in Tofino, with the help of a small neighbourhood grant from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust. Carol plans to make red dresses and shawls to remind those who live and visit the community of the women and girls lost to the national phenomenon that has seized Canada’s attention.

“I just thought it was really important to bring the awareness to people that may not know the story about missing women,” said Carol.

The investigation into Lisa’s disappearance continues, and last year the family met with the RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit, who brought a binder with more than 800 tips related to the case. The man Lisa was last seen with has also been tracked by police over the years.

“He’s still a person of interest,” said Carol. “They found out right away his name and his vehicle, but nothing really solid after that.”

“He said that he dropped her off and that she was going to take a taxi,” she added. “There was a no record of a taxi.”

Since 2003 the family has held a walk in Lisa’s honour – and to keep the search for her alive. The next walk for Lisa Marie Young takes place in on Sunday, June 30, starting at the Nanaimo police station at 303 Prideaux St.

“She was a very gentle, happy young girl. Very stubborn,” said Cecilia of her granddaughter. “I’m still not giving up.”