News of families


September 2, 2009 The disappearance of two teenage girls in Maniwaki, Que., one year ago has left a painful void in their families and their small Algonquin community. Maisy Odjick, 16, and Shannon Alexander, 17, were last seen on Sept. 6, 2008. A year later, Odjick’s clothes, her flute, her camera and treasured photos are still where she left them at the home of her grandparents, where she usually stayed. “I’ve kept everything the way it was when she left here, when she disappeared … hoping that she’ll come home or that she’ll call and let me know that she’s alive somewhere,” her grandmother Lisa Odjick said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “Not knowing if she’s alive or dead, that’s the hardest thing.” Quebec provincial police declined to comment earlier this week about the case, but they were scheduled to hold a news conference about it in Ottawa with the Ontario Provincial Police on Thursday morning. At Lisa Odjick’s cream-coloured bungalow on the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg First Nation reserve, about 145 kilometres north of Ottawa, there is still a pillow on the arm of the brown fold-out couch where Maisy slept, and her clothes are still in the white cupboard in the corner. Her family got a cake for her last birthday and put gifts under the tree for her at Christmas in case she came home, her grandmother recalled. “But she didn’t come home. Now another birthday’s coming up and she’s going to be 18, and still no word,” her grandmother sobbed. “And it’s hard. It’s so hard.” On Sunday, a march and candlelight vigil will be held to commemorate the girls’ disappearance, organized by Maisy’s mother, Laurie Odjick. At an apartment in nearby Maniwaki, Shannon Alexander’s father Bryan said he has been waiting by the phone for months, hoping someone who knows the girls’ whereabouts will call. “My whole family’s torn up,” he said. Lisa Odjick said nothing seemed amiss when she last saw Maisy, who was heading out to a dance with her friend on Saturday night. “She was all happy when she left here with Shannon,” Odjick recalled, saying the girls had only known each other for a few weeks but were already very close. Odjick asked Maisy to call on Sunday, but grew worried when she didn’t hear from her. She went over to Bryan Alexander’s place, where the girls had planned to spend the night. Alexander said he had originally left for the weekend to paint Shannon’s brother’s house, but returned a day early. “I was spooked, there was no answer in the house,” he said. He found the doors locked and the...

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Family and friends have confirmed Vanessa Tagoona is the 29-year-old woman who was found dead in an Ottawa motel room Friday. Tagoona was discovered around 12:45 p.m. at the Concorde Motel at 333 Montreal Rd. The Ottawa police major crimes unit is investigating the death, which police describe as “suspicious.” A tribute page on the social-networking website Facebook describes Tagoona as a Michael Jackson fan who enjoyed dancing, shopping and talking on the telephone as well as “Chillin wit my home girls and boyz.” Tara Arnatsiaq-Barnes said Vanessa was the life of the party. “She would get me out of the house and make me have a good time,” Arnatsiaq-Barnes said. “She was a riot. Everything was funny with her. I didn’t realize I knew her for five years. It went by so fast, but, I mean, I’m happy that I had someone that wonderful in my life.” Arnatsiaq-Barnes said she met Tagoona through mutual friends from Nunavut. She said Tagoona was from Baker Lake, but had been living in Ottawa with her mother for several years. Arnatsiaq-Barnes said Tagoona had worked as an office administrator with the federal government and Inuit groups but wasn’t working at the time of her death. Dawn-Julia Olson created the Facebook page in tribute to Tagoona, “one of her best friends.” In an e-mail, Olson wrote she was too upset about Tagoona’s death to speak about it. “RIP Vanessa, you will be missed dearly by everybody,” Olson posted on Facebook. Arnatsiaq-Barnes said at first she thought Tagoona had died due to poor health. She said Tagoona had recently been diagnosed with emphysema and had other health complaints. Other friends said she was under 5 feet tall due to a developmental problem. Arnatsiaq-Barnes said she’s since learned that Tagoona’s mother thought Tagoona was on a date when she died. “Her mother told me that she was seeing a guy,” Arnatsiaq-Barnes said. “What I’ve been told is that she was staying with a guy and had gone to spend the night with him or something like that.” Melissa McAleer, a friend, said she was baffled to learn Tagoona was found in a Vanier motel. “It would take everything to convince her to visit me in Vanier because she didn’t like it here,” McAleer said. Reached by phone yesterday, Vanessa Tagoona’s cousin Kendra Tagoona said the family is too distraught to talk to reporters. A viewing is being held tomorrow at Hulse Playfair and McGarry, 315 McLeod St., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.(from CBC.ca, http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2009/07/22/nunavut-ott-death.html?ref=rss) Nunavut woman’s death in Ottawa deemed suspicious Police in Ottawa say the death late last week of a woman originally...

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Right: Bridget Tolley. In photograph: Gladys Tolley In 2001, Gladys Tolley of Kitigan Zibi Anishnaabeg was struck and killed by a Surete de Quebec cruiser. The “investigation” that ensued was carried out by brothers of the offending officer. Since then, Gladys’ daughter, Bridget Tolley, has been working non-stop at calling a public inquiry into her mother’s death. She has, so far, not received the attention she and her family deserve, but is determined nevertheless to keep going, “even if it takes ten or fifteen years.” Download Petition here. You can mail any completed petitions back to: Missing Justice 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy c/o Concordia University 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest- Annex v-01 Montreal, Quebec H3G...

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Two Events: June 18: A memorial walk and candlelight vigil for the 3rd anniversary of Tiffany Morrison’s disappearance, 8pm in Kahnawake, at the grounds beside the K103 radio station Tiffany Morrison is a 25-year-old Mohawk woman who disappeared after getting in a cab that left LaSalle, Quebec in 2006. She shared a taxi back to Kahnawake with a man from the community, who has told police that she remained in the taxi after he was let out at his house. Tiffany has a daughter to whom she is completely devoted, and as her mother said, “she would never leave her like this.” Police negligence and media blackout continue to act as major barriers to solving the case. Join us to help raise awareness of Tiffany’s case, and to show her family that we will not be silent as their loved one is missing. For more information on Tiffany’s disappearance: www.amnesty.ca/campaigns/sisters_tiffany_morrison.php Transportation: Buses ($2 per person, or by donation) will leave Angrignon station at 7pm, and return at 10:30pm. To reserve a spot on a bus, please contact Kary Ann Deer at Quebec Native Women Inc (450)632-0088 ext.221. Cyclists will meet at Angrignon station at 3:30 and will return to Montreal between 9:30 and 10pm. Email us with any questions at justiceformissing@gmail.com June 17: A workshop held by Sisters in Spirit, 5:30pm in Kahnawake, at the Golden Age Club This workshop will be an opportunity for community members to strategize on the issues surrounding missing and murdered Indigenous women. A light meal will be served at 5pm. The Sisters in Spirit initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada works to address violence facing Aboriginal women, in particular focusing on the high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. No transportation has been arranged for this event. Missing Justice is a newly formed grassroots collective based in Montreal that works to eliminate the ongoing and increasing threat to the safety of Indigenous women in Canada, and to dispel harmful stereotypes about First Nations People. Since September, five First Nations women have gone missing in Quebec. Missing Justice recognizes that this, and all violence against Indigenous women is a result of systemic oppression of Indigenous peoples by the government, with the compliance of media and police. Some of the collective’s activities include raising awareness, such as an upcoming Montreal-wide poster campaign, research, information-sharing, media campaigns, popular education and direct action. For more information on Missing Justice please check out:...

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Maisy Odjick, a 16 year-old from the Algonquin community of Kitigan Zibi near Maniwaki (Quebec) has been missing since September 8, 2008. In the words of Laurie Odjick, Maisy’s mother, the response of police services has been “incompetent, unprofessional, uncooperative [and] unaccountable.” The May 2009 edition of No One Is Illegal Radio features an interview with Laurie Odjick, who has been organizing and struggling for justice and answers in the case of her missing daughter. Laurie also wrote a public letter condemning police maplractice, below. Read the letter Listen to Audio of Laurie reading her...

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The search for Maisy and Shannon continues by Maya Rolbin-Ghanie and Dru Oja Jay see photo essay – http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2694 KITIGAN ZIBI ANISHINABEG–Maisy Odjick, 17, and her friend Shannon Alexander, now 18, vanished from Shannon’s father’s apartment in Maniwaki, Quebec, September 6, 2008. Both are from Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin reserve adjacent to Maniwaki. Since September, neither the Kitigan Zibi Police Services nor the Sûreté du Québec has collected any evidence pertaining to the whereabouts of the two girls. When Maisy and Shannon vanished, their wallets and their money were left behind. The police are not ruling out the possibility that the two girls are “runaways.” In addition, the police have repeatedly neglected to communicate with and report back to the two families. The little media attention this case has attracted may be attributed to the constant and determined efforts at media outreach by Maisy’s mother, Laurie Odjick. The two ground searches since the disappearance – December 7, 2008, and May 2, 2009 – were led by Search and Rescue Global 1; both times the Odjick family was the main organizer. According to Search Leader Lawrence Conway, the search for Maisy and Shannon is the first family-organized search he has ever taken part in. Normally, the police call rescue teams and arrange searches. Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence. The official number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada since 1980 is 520, two-thirds of whom were murdered and about one-quarter of whom are still missing. Roughly half of these murders and disappearances occurred in the last nine years and over 300 cases are as of yet unsolved. Indigenous grassroots activists and communities put the number of cases closer to 1800. Amnesty International, the United Nations, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) have all put forth comprehensive recommendations to the Canadian government to address the violence and discrimination faced by Indigenous women, but so far no action has been taken beyond a small amount of funding allotted for research. NWAC President Beverley Jacobs points out that even working with a number like 520, taken proportionately that “would equal 18,000 women among Canada’s white population. If there were 18,000 white women missing and murdered, it would be headlines. There would be something done...

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