VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Special to The Leader-Post
Saturday, January 28, 2006
When darkness falls she visits her.
She puts her other children to bed, opens the door to her daughter's bedroom, steps softly inside and lies down on the bed.
There, she cries, she prays and she talks to her daughter.
"In my culture I believe that her spirit is still alive although physically I don't know where she is."
She is Gwenda Yuzicappi. Her 19-year-old daughter Amber Tara-Lynn Redman has been missing for four months.
On Thursday July 14, Amber went to Trapper's Bar in Fort Qu'Appelle. She was last seen there at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. A missing person's report was filed the following Monday.
Gwenda has been waiting for Amber to come home ever since.
Waiting and dreaming about it.
"I dream about that all the time," she said. "My first dream was shortly after she went missing. She came walking in the door and she just stood there. She didn't say nothing. She didn't smile."
The dream worried Gwenda. Sometimes, she can't help but think the worst.
"Everything goes through my head. I think about if she's being harmed, if she's cold, if she's being fed."
RCMP say they have no information about the cause of her disappearance or her current whereabouts.
But, drugs and alcohol, says Gwenda, may have played a part in her daughter's disappearance and she wonders if someone slipped something into Amber's drink.
"I did speak with one of the waitresses at the bar and they did say that Amber only had two beer that night. They said that she was so drunk she was falling all over. They said she fell three times, and the last time she hit her head pretty hard."
But, the truth is, she added, nobody knows.
So she can't and won't blame anyone.
Her story is all too familiar to mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and friends of missing women all over Saskatchewan.
Amber Redman, Melanie Dawn Geddes and Daleen Bosse have all gone missing in southern Saskatchewan in the last two years.
Amber Redman is described as aboriginal, 5'8, 126 pounds with long, brown hair. She was last seen wearing denim blue jeans, a denim blue jean shirt and blue metal earrings in the shape of a heart with two eagle feathers. She is a member of the Standing Buffalo First Nation.
Melanie Dawn Geddes went missing Aug. 13, 2005. She is 24 years old and described as 5'9, 190 pounds with long, black, curly hair, brown eyes and has a mole on her left cheek. She was last seen in the 900 block of Robinson Street in Regina at 1 a.m., wearing a white sleeveless blouse and light blue capris.
Daleen Bosse went missing May 18, 2004. She was 26 years old and is described as 5'5, 170 pounds and wears glasses. She is a member of the Onion Lake First Nation and was last seen by her family in Saskatoon.
RCMP say they cannot release the names of the 17 missing aboriginal women under their jurisdiction due to privacy reasons, but they have confirmed that Amber Redman is one of them.
The secrecy makes writer Warren Goulding frustrated.
"I don't understand why they're afraid to show that information. It just makes no sense at all," he said.
Goulding is the author of Just Another Indian, a book that candidly details the brutal murders of convicted serial killer John Martin Crawford, a man who targeted aboriginal women in Saskatoon.
The dedication to the book reads, "It is a tribute to the families they left behind. May they come to know that many Canadians share their sadness," and that expresses exactly what troubled Goulding so much about the Crawford killings -- many people didn't care.
In the 1990s, the disappearance of aboriginal women in Saskatoon was followed quickly by the discovery of their bodies just outside of town. They were Shelley Napope, Calinda Waterhen, Eva Taysup, and Mary Jane Serloin.
Crime and court reporter for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Goulding came upon the Crawford killings innocently.
"Initially, when the bodies of the three women in the book were found in 1994 and I, as a reporter, at that time was following the story and covered the investigation right from the first remains being found right until John Crawford was convicted."
What amazed Goulding how little attention people paid to a serial killer in their own community.
"Unlike many of the sordid characters with whom he shares the designation 'serial killer,' John Martin Crawford shuns publicity. He has staked his claim as one of the nation's most prolific sex killers with little fanfare," he writes.
"Housed in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, serving three concurrent life sentences, he is anonymous, his deeds virtually forgotten."
Crawford has been the "beneficiary of a disinterested media and an equally impassive public," charges Goulding. Fifteen years later, aboriginal women are still going missing and are still being murdered. Thinking of the recent publicity in British Columbia regarding the alleged serial killer Robert Pickton, charged with the deaths of 27 prostitutes from Vancouver's downtown eastside, and in Edmonton, where police have identified the possibility of a serial killer since the bodies of nine sex trade workers were found in the outskirts of the city, Goulding can't help but think that the situation in Saskatchewan isn't the same.
"The Saskatchewan disappearances are really different, aren't they? It's not like these are girls that are working the street or even living in a high risk area or anything," he said. "I don't know if that's part of a pattern."
According to RCMP in Saskatchewan, it's not one.
"We, the police agencies, haven't identified a trend," said media officer Cpl. Brian Jones in an interview. "To me, a trend implies that there's a connection between those. There is a similarity in that they are aboriginal and that they are female."
Trend or not, people are paying more attention to missing aboriginal women.
"I guess the only good thing about it is that we're talking about it and we care. Look at 1992 when the women disappeared in Saskatoon. Nobody even knew about it, let alone cared about it. So, that's a positive in a very sad story," said Goulding.
The release of Amnesty International's Stolen Sisters report in October 2004 could be the reason for the increased media attention surrounding missing aboriginal women.
"Over the past twenty years more than five hundred Indigenous women may have been murdered or gone missing in circumstances suggesting violence," says the report, releasing the findings of the Native Women's Association of Canada.
Long-time Amnesty International volunteer Gord Barnes has been trying to raise awareness about the report in Regina, where the Regina Police Service says Melanie Dawn Geddes, Joyce Lucille Tillotson and Patricia Maye Favel are missing.
"The long text of the report really demonstrates that, first of all, women who are First Nations background are being targeted because the people who are perpetrating the crimes against them thought they could get away with it because no one would care. It was a systemic issue of the violation of their physical and mental integrity," said Barnes, who added the report also identifies a lack of support services for women, as well as an inadequate police response to missing aboriginal women.
Indicating the murders of 19-year-old Helen Betty Osborne and her 16-year-old cousin Felicia Solomon, as well as the murders of Roxanna Thiara and Alishia Germaine in Prince George, B.C., the murder of Ramona Wilson in Smithers, B.C., John Crawford's victims, Robert Pickton's victims and the murders in Edmonton, the report charges that, "In every instance, Canadian authorities could and should have done more to ensure the safety of these women and girls or to address the social and economic factors that had helped put them in harm's way."
The Government of Saskatchewan announced a missing persons task force Nov. 21. Part of that means funding for six RCMP positions, four to work with the historical crime unit and two to work with the violent crime analysis section, as well as one officer for each of the Saskatoon and Regina police forces.
"The issue of missing persons is a tragedy for families and communities across our province," Justice Minister Frank Quennell said in a press release.
"Keeping Saskatchewan communities safe is a top priority of our government, and assisting law enforcement to investigate missing persons cases is an important part of this goal. I am confident that this initiative will help solve cases of missing persons and provide families with answers about their missing loved ones."
Quennell was unavailable for comment.
The provincial government will invest nearly $2 million over the next three years to find missing persons. The dollars are good news, according to Jones.
"The money and the positions are going to be welcome because there's a lot of work to be done and the more resources that are applied to them the more that can be worked on, perhaps in a more timely fashion," said the media officer.
Gwenda also appreciates the government's efforts.
"I believe something has to happen and it is a start. I'm appreciative of what the government is trying to do and I hope that other leaders, including First Nations leaders, do something."
In Saskatchewan, police say they take the missing persons cases personally.
"Missing person cases are very, very challenging for police agencies to work on and try to resolve. Throughout the whole thing, the fact that there are people patiently waiting for answers is what helps drive the investigators," said Jones.
Cpl. Darren Harrison of the Fort Qu'Appelle RCMP is supervising Amber's case and said that her disappearance has been frustrating.
"I have kids growing up and it certainly makes me think. I've sat down and talked with my kids about the possibility that that could happen," said Harrison, adding, "work wise, being a supervisor at the detachment, it certainly increases your workload and trying to make sure that a good proper thorough investigation is done is certainly demanding."
But nothing compares to the anguish a mother feels when she knows her daughter could be anywhere, in any condition.
"I miss her so much," said Gwenda, looking away with wet eyes and cheeks.
"If there's a day I find out that she's passed on to the spirit world, to me, having the closure won't be a happy day, but at least I'll know where she is."
While she waits for news of her daughter, she has immersed herself in the issue of missing aboriginal women, who, she says, are more likely to go missing than non-aboriginal women because "they're an easy target," and people don't think that the RCMP will do anything about it.
But RCMP say race doesn't mean anything to police agencies when they're investigating a missing persons report.
"Gender or race doesn't affect how the RCMP, and it's safe to say any police agency, would investigate it. They're investigated and followed up as the information and the evidence that's available will allow," said Jones.
With that said, the Stolen Sisters report states that the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women need special attention.
"Police have said that they do not necessarily record the ethnicity of crime victims or missing persons when entering information in the Canadian Police Information Centre database, the principal mechanism for sharing information among police forces in Canada. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, in 11 percent of homicides in 2000, Canadian police did not record or report on whether or not the victim was an Indigenous person."
Gwenda believes there is a disparity between the way aboriginal women and other women are treated and that's why, when the day comes when she is reunited with her daughter, physically or spiritually, she says she won't give up on other missing women.
"I'm still going to stand strong behind other families who have family members missing. This is an issue that I'm going to be supporting for a long, long time."
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MISSING FROM SASK.
Women missing from Saskatchewan:
- 1983: Joyce Lucille Tillotson. She was 42 years old when she went missing near her home at 2204 Reynolds St. on Nov. 14, 1983.
- 1991: Shirley Lonethunder. She is originally from the White Bear First Nation in Southeast Saskatchewan and disappeared out of Saskatoon around the same time convicted killer John Martin Crawford was murdering aboriginal women in the area.
- 2002: Victoria Nashacappo. Aged 22, she disappeared from Saskatoon in September 2002.
- 2004: Daleen Bosse. She was 26 years old and is described as 5'5, 170 pounds and wears glasses. She is a member of the Onion Lake First Nation and was last seen by her family in Saskatoon May 18, 2004.
- 2005: Melanie Dawn Geddes. She is 24 years old and described as 5'9, 190 pounds with long, black, curly hair, brown eyes and has a mole on her left cheek. She was last seen in the 900 block of Robinson Street in Regina at 1 a.m. Aug. 13, wearing a white sleeveless blouse and light blue capris.
- 2005: Amber Tara-Lynn Redman. She is 19 years old and is described as aboriginal, 5'8, 126 pounds with long, brown hair. She was last seen July 15 wearing denim blue jeans, a denim blue jean shirt and blue metal earrings in the shape of a heart with two eagle feathers. She is a member of the Standing Buffalo First Nation.
These are the names of aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered as compiled by the Canadian Native Women's Association and the Sisters in Spirit Campaign:
Ada Elaine Brown
Naomi Leigh Desjarlais
Donna Marie Kasyon
Pamela Jean George
Ginger Lee Bellerose
Sherry Ann Upright
Rhonda Running Bird
Ann Ruby Threlfell
Cherish Billy Oppenheim
Crystal Peggy Baker
Lisa Marie Graveline
Sarah Jean Devries
Lisa Marie Young
Tanya Marlo Holyk
Olivia Gayle Williams
Dorothy Anne Spence
Maria Lorna Laliberte
Ruby Anne Hardy
Cheryl Ann Joe
Nancy Jane Bob
Cassandra Lailoni Antone
Kari Ann Gordon
Tammy Lee Pipe
Rose Minnie Peters
Crysta Lynn David
Velma Marie Duncan
Roberta Marie Ferguson
Chantal Marie Venne
Donna Rose Kiss
Carol Ruby Davis
Lisa Marie Gavin
Catherine Mary Daignault
Jackaleen Patricia Dyck
Jane Louise Sutherland
Rebecca Jean King
Sandra Kaye Johnson
Cheryl Ann Johnson
Anna Mae Aquash
Laura Lee Cross
Carol Ann Deiter
Laura Ann Ahenakew
Elaine Keewatin Flowers
Mrs. Wayne Stonechild
Tracy Lyn Hope
Shirley Lone Thunder
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2006
Updated: January 01, 2007