Sheila North Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, listens to an RCMP announcement at a press conference in Winnipeg, Friday, March 18, 2016. Helicopters and a specialized military aircraft scoured from the air while armed police took to the ground over northern Manitoba in a hunt for two suspects of murders in British Columbia. Some advocates say it’s a stark contrast to resources applied to searches for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba manhunt shows lack of resources for missing Indigenous women: advocates

The massive manhunt has gripped the country since Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, went missing

Helicopters and a specialized military aircraft scoured from the air while armed police took to the ground over northern Manitoba in a hunt for two suspects of murders in British Columbia.

Some advocates say it’s a stark contrast to resources applied to searches for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

READ MORE: Police probe ‘suspicious vehicle’ thought to be linked to B.C. fugitives in northern Ontario

“It is a little bit eyebrow raising because of the different response,” says Sheila North, a former grand chief and advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“The effort that they are going through to try and find them … could trigger a lot of things for people who do their own searches.”

The massive manhunt has gripped the country since Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were named last week as suspects in three killings. University professor Leonard Dyck and Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were found dead last month in northern B.C.

North said it’s important the suspects are caught because they could pose a serious risk to the public.

But she wonders where the same sense of urgency is when an Indigenous woman or girl can’t be found.

North recalls the case of Jennifer Catcheway in 2008. She was last seen in Portage la Prairie, Man. on the night of her 18th birthday. When Wilfred and Bernice Catcheway notified police their daughter was missing, they were told she was probably out partying, North said.

For more than a decade, the Catcheways have conducted their own search of rivers, lakes, forests and nearby First Nations.

North says she’s also reminded of 51-year-old grandmother, Mildred Flett, who was last seen in Winnipeg in 2010. Her ex-husband has said it was difficult to get police to pay attention to her case.

Flett was from the Testaskweyak Cree Nation in Split Lake, Man., where missing person posters of her remain. Schmegelsky and McLeod were spotted in the same community before a vehicle they were travelling in was found in nearby Gillam, leading police to focus their search in that area.

North said there are more than 1,200 relatives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls watching as Mounties do everything they can to find the two murder suspects. They may also be wondering why they couldn’t have received more help, she adds.

“Families that do their own searches are feeling a little bit let down and not respected in the same way as these other families are,” she said.

Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte has seen many families struggle to organize searches as the co-chair of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), a grassroots group that supports families of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Saskatchewan.

Her cousin, Shelley Napope, 16, was murdered by serial killer John Martin Crawford in 1992.

Okemaysim-Sicotte says she supports efforts to find Schmegelsky and McLeod and that no life is worth more than another.

But the manhunt for them has made it clear that there is the means, money and public support to conduct a large-scale search when needed, she says.

Okemaysim-Sicotte hopes people will remember that the next time an Indigenous woman or girl is missing.

“The world is watching it, she says.

Here’s the latest in the manhunt for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky:

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Snowmaggedon 2020’ has passed, but 20-30 milimetres of rain expected Friday

Residents should brace for rain and clear drains to prevent localized flooding

What happens in the Cowichan Valley when an earthquake strikes

When an earthquake does happen, will the Cowichan Valley be ready for it?

Exploring life, the afterlife, and near death experiences with Dr. Lynn Echevarria

Echevarria will deliver a talk to the LRCA Seniors Centre Tuesday, January 21 at 1:30 pm

Winter storm warning now in effect for Island’s east coast

Environment Canada issues new weather warning late Wednesday afternoon

Town of Ladysmith snow removal crews prepared to respond to overnight snowfall

10 to 15 centimetres of snow are expected for Ladysmith overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

Most Read