by Jillian Kestler-D’amours Around the time Tiffany Morrison disappeared, she had started babysitting her older sister Melanie Morrison’s young daughter. “She was coming to the house to help out and hang out. She wanted to be around my daughter because she loved kids,” said Melanie, thinking back. Today, nearly four years after Tiffany went missing, Melanie explained that her daughter still recognizes her aunt in pictures and knows her through the stories told about her. “All of a sudden my daughter will be flipping through the photo album and she’s like, ‘Oh, that’s auntie Tiffany.’ She goes, ‘We’re going to find her, eh? We’re going to bring her home.’ And it just makes you want to cry,” Melanie said, forcing a smile. “Because deep down, I know my daughter is never going to see her again.”
Trail running cold Tiffany was last seen leaving the Haraiki Bar in LaSalle, where she had gone to see a band with friends, on June 16, 2006. At the time, the 25-year-old lived on the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve, 20 minutes south west of Montreal, with her mother and young daughter. She reportedly left the bar around midnight in a taxi with a man from the community. After 24 hours had passed with no word from Tiffany, the Morrison family began to worry. “Every time my sister went out, she’d always tell my mother when she was coming home, or where she would be, and if anything changed she’d call to let her daughter know […] and this time, nothing. There was no contact whatsoever,” Melanie said. Ed Stacey, an investigator with the Kahnawake Peacekeepers, was assigned to the case from the very beginning. The main suspect is the man Tiffany left the bar with that night. “[He] has denied police procedures, [like a] polygraph.test,”said Stacey. “He said it wasn’t in [his] beliefs to go through those measures and right now I don’t have enough evidence to get a warrant to make [him] go through the procedures,” Stacey said. The suspect did give a statement to police, saying that he was dropped off first while Tiffany continued on in the cab to her mother’s house. “It’s maybe seven minutes between the two [houses], with the [traffic] lights. It’s not a far distance,” explained Melanie. But since taxi drivers often don’t report the fares going to and from Kahnawake, there is no way to trace which driver or taxi company dropped them off. “If they would have called for a taxi from the bar, then it would have been registered [with the dispatcher]. But that didn’t happen. They waved the cab down off the street,” Stacey said. At the time of her disappearance, Tiffany had just completed an entrepreneurial course with the goal of starting her own business in the community. “She wanted to start putting money [aside] to build a house for her and her daughter,” Melanie said. “The irony is the business that she wanted to start was a taxi business and that’s the last place she was associated with, in the taxi.” Tiffany’s daughter had just graduated from kindergarden at the time of her disappearance and has been kept at a distance from the ongoing investigation. Tiffany is the first person who has gone missing for an extended peroid of time from Kahnawake—a community of about 8,500 residents. “There is somebody out there who knows what happened to [Tiffany], but no one has come forward with any solid information. I never believed that it would have come to this and lasted this long in a small community like this,” Stacey said. A national disgrace Statistics from Amnesty International state that there have been over 520 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada since 1980. According to Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, a member of the Montreal-based grassroots collective Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, also known as Missing Justice, this number is deceptively low. “It’s become pretty clear that that number is way lower than it should be,” Rolbin-Ghanie said. “I think the hardest thing is just getting people to realize that it’s a problem and getting people to realize that it’s a systemic issue to do with the very set-up of our government and this country called Canada.” According to Canadian government statistics, Indigenous women are five times more likely to be die as a result of violence than other women, and report physical and sexual violence 3.5 times more frequently than non-Indigenous women. “Just having the government admit that there is a problem [would be] one huge step towards raising awareness and making the situation better all around the country. The government needs to publicly acknowledge that there is a gendered and racialized violence issue in this country,” Rolbin-Ghanie said. She added that because cases of missing Native women are often not taken seriously, not thoroughly investigated and rarely reported on, individuals are drawn to Native communities to commit acts of violence. “It’s come to the attention of many people that when an Indigenous woman goes missing or is murdered, there is very, very, very little investigation whatsoever, and people are way less likely to get caught, so it does attract crazies, if you will, to Native communities,” Rolbin-Ghanie said. The official number of missing and murdered Native women—just over 520 since 1980—would correspond to 18,000 missing women if extrapolated to the general non-Native female population of Canada. Keeping Tiffany’s story alive Melanie organized a candlelit vigil through Kahnawake on the three-year anniversary of her sister’s disappearance last June, and had a booth at the community’s annual powwow this past summer. She is now working on getting a billboard put up along highway 338 near the reserve to draw attention to the fact that Tiffany is still missing. “I think I buried myself in trying to keep her out there that it’s kind of keeping me numb to it. As long as I keep a goal, the next step to get her back, it helps me function more with the fact that she’s missing,” she said quietly. Melanie explained that she has had to suppress her emotions in order to deal with the situation and keep the painful tasks off her parents’ shoulders. “Somebody knows what happened to her and by putting her face out there on a constant basis, it’s going to eat away at their conscience because no one can live with that forever. Hopefully whoever did this grows a heart and let’s [my parents] get her back before they pass,” Melanie said. She added that without any new leads or reliable information, the family is stuck in a helpless state of limbo, not knowing what happened to Tiffany. “It’s changed a lot at my mother’s house. Every holiday and family function was really light-hearted because my sister was quite the joker. She was always so energetic—I got tired watching her. And now when you go there it’s more, I don’t know…” Melanie said, trailing off. “Everybody’s on eggshells around each other. It’s not the same. You can tell there’s something missing.” If you have any information related to the disappearance of Tiffany Morrison, call the Kahnawake Peacekeepers at (450) 632-6505. If you would like to see the video footage from this story, check out thelink-newspaper.ca/blog.
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