Jacquie Bowes, Patrick’s cousin, speaks at Bovill Square on June 1. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Family, friends of Jessica Patrick demand answers after another death along Highway of Tears, Smithers

Gathering places memorial near where the 18-year-old’s body was found in September 2018

Her friends and family still don’t have answers, but now Jessica Patrick has a memorial.

On June 1, friends, family and people who wanted to pay their respects to Patrick gathered to lay a cross at a tree next to where the 18-year-old’s body was found Sept. 11, 2018 at Hudson Bay Mountain Lookout.

Later that day, at Bovill Square in Smithers, numerous people who knew Patrick spoke about her case and about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Jacquie Bowes is Patrick’s cousin and was involved with organizing the afternoon.

She said the event was meant to let the people working on Patrick’s case know they won’t be silent any longer.

Bowes said that after finding her cousin, they began to gather information and leads that they shared with the lead investigator on the case — or so they thought.

She said that the family later discovered this information was never communicated to the lead investigator, something that upset them considerably.

It was at this point, Bowes, who is a mediator with the crime unit and the coroner regarding Patrick’s case, said that the North District Major Crime Unit (NDMCU) became involved.

And while she said the communication started off great, with time it began to dwindle.

“We understand that there are limits to what they can tell us and share with us without interfering in the investigation or risking the investigation [but] we were told March 2019 for results, then we were told April, May — that’s when they stopped communicating with us,” she said.

“We did warn the [NDMCU] that if there is no word from them or any communication that we will start making noise and they are fully aware of today’s events.”

Now that’s exactly what the family is doing, with Bowes adding they deserve an answer after nearly nine months of waiting.

In a May 28 press release the RCMP addressed the issue. “The investigation is and continues to be a priority and is active and ongoing. The investigators have had consistent communication with the family. Without compromising the investigation, they have shared pertinent details with the family. At this time there is no other information available to be released,” the release read.

“We have a responsibility to the people that live in our territories and so it’s important that we support them and love them and protect them, especially our own people and other Indigineous people that are here and at the highest and greatest risk,” said Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gitdumden Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, during the gathering.

Well over 100 people came out to the event, many dressed in red (a reference to the REDress project, which seeks to highlight the disproportionate number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada) to pay their respects to Patrick as well as other missing and murdered Indigenous women and men.

Among them was Phyllis Fleury, whose son Colton has been missing since May 3 of last year.

Crying out for her son’s safe return she echoed the views of other speakers in voicing a need to hold a fire under law enforcement with regards to getting them to put more time and resources into cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous individuals.

“Last month they had a first-time potlatch … at Lheidli T’enneh Nation,” Fleury said. “Seven hereditary chiefs covered me with a blanket in support to show their love their support and I’m wearing this blanket for my son Colton. We need a blanket — and this is what they said — over our whole nation, so that we don’t go missing anymore.”

The event was attended by a number of RCMP cruisers and bicycle units near Bovill Square. Demonstraters addressed the officers directly with yells such as “do your job, RCMP.”

Patrick was last seen leaving Mountain View Motel in Smithers in the early morning hours of Aug. 31.

On Monday, the missing Indigenous women and girls inquiry delivered its final report in a closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que.

The 1,200 page report included 231 “calls for justice” and defined the violence as a “Canadian Genocide.”

Among the recommendations was a call to change the Criminal Code to make cases of culpable homicide where there is a pattern of intimate partner violence first-degree murder by definition.

With files from Thom Barker

IndigenousMMIWMMIWGSmithers

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A number of members from the Lake Babine Nation and Witset First Nation put on drumming performances during the event. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

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