Do you have information on an unsolved case involving missing or murdered indigenous women or girls?
Laurie Odjick has a voice that captivates you, especially when it comes to stories about her daughter, Maisy Odjick.
“Just seeing her face, her eyes and counting her little fingers and toes … (I) was already in love because I felt her for nine months, but to see her, hold her, it’s just simply amazing and such a gift,” Laurie said while reflecting on the day she gave birth to Maisy.
“That’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
According to the RCMP’s database Canada’s Missing, Maisy, along with her best friend Shannon Alexander, 17, were reported missing from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Nation, in Quebec on Sept. 8, 2008.
Laurie said Maisy and her friend were your average teenage girls. They went to high school, gossiped about boys and socialized at the popular local hangouts.
Neither girl was in trouble with the law. Other than experimenting with marijuana from time to time, leading a high-risk lifestyle was the furthest thing from their minds. So when the two suddenly disappeared, it was a shock to everyone who knew them.
Laurie last saw her daughter on Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. She and Shannon were outside Maisy’s grandmother’s house, mowing the lawn.
Maisy lived with her grandmother and often did the chore every Saturday morning. Laurie asked her why she was doing it a day early.
“She said she was going to go spend the weekend with Shannon because her dad was going to help his son in the city [Ottawa] to paint,” Laurie recalled.
Alexander lived in Maniwaki, Que., a town adjacent to the reserve. Maisy often spent nights at her place, so it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“I hugged her and kissed her and I asked her what she was doing that weekend,” Laurie said.
The girls told her they were going to a school dance. They made it to the Maniwaki arena that night. Other friends who were also there saw the girls leave together. That was the last time anyone had seen either girl.
Shannon’s father, Brian Alexander, returned to his apartment on Labour Day. Laurie said he found the girls had left behind their purses, wallets, identification and backpacks. Shannon had even left her medication behind.
Laurie said she believes the investigation into Maisy’s disappearance was mishandled from the beginning.
“I know this for a fact -- at the time they [Kitigan Zibi Police Department] didn’t have ... no protocol or procedure on that. And I do know, also for a fact, the RCMP had called them and asked them if they needed help. And they refused it," she said in between sighs.
She said what’s worse was that her daughter and her friend were labelled as runaways.
“The apartment that Shannon’s dad and her lived in at the time wasn’t even searched,” Laurie said, while lighting up a smoke.
Through a shaky voice, she explains that she needs to calm her nerves. Even through the phone, you could hear she was wiping away tears.
She went on to say that her family never got a file number or any support from police for a press release that would notify media to broadcast her disappearance.
“I mean, even the chief and council, nobody ... it seemed like nobody cared at the time,” Laurie said.
That’s when Maisy’s aunt, Maria Jacko, built a website with as much information about the girls and their disappearance.
Then more than six days after anyone had seen the girls, Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck arranged for a press conference.
“It was even sadder because only the town paper really showed up and APTN,” Laurie said.
She and other volunteers started searching on their own, without the help of any police.
Finally, after a month went by, the police notified the public. But Laurie feels that valuable evidence was lost by then.
Eventually, Search and Rescue Global One was invited to the community by the chief and council. Two separate searches were conducted, both unsuccessful.
In 2009, the Sûreté du Quebec provincial police force took over the case. Relations with the lead investigator are stronger than ever.
“From the very beginning, he calls me.... Even if he knows nothing, it’s just reassurance that she’s not forgotten. You know, and that makes a world of a difference,” Laurie said, adding that the detective has even given her his personal cell number.
Laurie is undecided when it comes to a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. On the one hand, she wants one to happen for those families that need it.
“But for me, I would actually like to see a commission -- a federal commission where they go out to families and speak to us, because we are the only ones who could actually tell them what they need,” she said.
Laurie has come to this conclusion because she realizes she may never get any answers as to what happened to her own daughter. She said the lead police investigator has told her that Maisy's file may soon be shelved.
“He told me there is going to become a time when Maisy’s file will be a cold case, only meaning that with no information coming in, and all the investigating they’ve done led to nowhere,” she said.
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.