Demonstrators chanted “justice” and held signs outside the front doors of the Quesnel Courthouse on Barlow Avenue Tuesday morning, Feb. 15 seeking justice for the murder of Carmelita Abraham.
The hour-long rally coincided with the court appearance of 51-year-old Joseph Simpson, charged with murder and indignity to human remains in her death.
Family held the corners of a large red banner with “Justice for Carmelita Abraham” printed on it with #notforgotten and #mmiwg as dozens of people gathered for drumming and singing and to share a few words.
“Justice for all women” was chanted with the names of Abraham, Ramona Wilson and Jessica Patrick-Balczer.
British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee joined the rally for all three women he is related to.
The murders of Wilson and Patrick-Balczer currently remain unsolved.
Wilson was 16-years-old when she disappeared in June 1994, and her body was later found in a wooded area by the Smithers Airport on April 9, 1995.
Patrick-Balczer’s body was discovered two weeks after she was last seen alive, leaving the Mountain View Motel in Smithers on Aug. 31, 2018.
”Far too often we don’t see justice and justice for not only our Indigenous women and girls but also for our men and our people,” Teegee said.
“We have a very strenuous and difficult relationship with the policing system, the RCMP, and far too often some of our members do die in custody.”
As at a ceremony held several weeks earlier outside the Willow Inn Motel honouring Abraham, Teegee said an action plan is needed to be implemented on the 231 Calls for Justice made in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
“That will provide the resources that will listen to all the women across this country that spoke about the issues that we all experience about MMIWG,” Teegee said.
“But more importantly with the 231 recommendations is to prevent this from happening again, and as your sign says ‘no more stolen sisters’ that is why the federal, provincial and municipal governments need to implement these recommendations, and these court systems and the policing system need to listen too.”
Lake Babine Nation Chief Murphy Abraham also spoke at the rally and said he agreed with Teegee that there needs to be action.
“The only way that the Indigenous people can fix this in my perspective, I feel that the men need to start stepping up in our community,” Abraham said, drawing cheers.
“The men really need to start changing this mindset and start loving their women.”
Abraham admitted it had taken him many years to be the man he is today, and that there are still many changes to be made within himself.
He said good programs with culture and language are another aspect needed back in communities to allow Indigenous people to connect with themselves and their ancestors.
Many are still coping with the impacts of trauma, such as residential school.
“We have four nations in the area and we’re missing a lot of young men, we’re missing women from way back in the 80s and we need to find our voice,” Nazko First Nation Chief Leah Stump said.
“We need to band together and show them that it’s not going to happen anymore.”
Simpson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15.
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