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.

Just Posted

Central Alberta Buccaneers punch ticket to AFL Final

28-20 win over Fort Mac sets up likely date against Calgary Wolf Pack

Lacombe Chamber annual Scholarship winners unveiled

Successful applicants for 2019 are Bryna Figursky and Aden Grose

Lacombe’s Morrison House Cafe to close Aug. 30

Morrison House recently celebrated 100 years in Lacombe

WATCH: Lacombe Days parade rolls through city

Hundreds turn out for annual tradition

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

First Nations women finally to be treated equally under Indian Act: Bennett

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action thanked the feds

‘Easy Rider’ star Peter Fonda dies at 79

Actor and writer was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 1969 psychedelic road trip movie

What could be next? Five questions in the SNC-Lavalin saga

Will police lay charges? Will report resonate with voters? Will Jody Wilson-Raybould get re-elected?

Alberta government strikes panel to advise on wage cut for alcohol servers

Panel is tasked with consolidating existing studies on the effects of a minimum-wage increase

‘Tips on steroids:’ Social media both a help, hurdle for Canadian police investigations

More than 1,000 tips were received by police in the hunt for fugitives Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky

Most Read