Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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Brent Cletheroe preaches at the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Quesnel, B.C.

He is a light for others through his ministry, but when Brent was a kid, he was afraid of the dark.

During those days, he would play with a hand-sized toy car with flashing red and blue lights that his mother, Shirley Cletheroe, gave him.

One evening, Shirley gave her son a little push to face his fear.

“She said ‘take that in the bathroom and turn it on.’ I did, and she shut the door,” said Brent.

“I was freaking out. It was pitch black in there.”

But he says he had the flicker of the toy as a flashlight.

Standing on the brighter side of the door, his mother asked him what he saw.

“I said ‘there's a toilet, there’s a tub,’ you know. And she opens the door and says ‘it looks the same in the dark as it does in the light, right?’”

That night, Brent slept with his bedroom door shut.

Now a father himself, Brent says this was his mother’s method; she was a straightforward lady, not afraid to hold back on tough love.

He defines her as a ‘wolverine’ as he remembers the fire within her tiny build.

Shirley referred to Brent as ‘the chosen one’ and encouraged her son to be a good example for his siblings just by the way she lived.

“She was just a really strong woman,” Brent said.

“She definitely made an impression on people’s lives that knew her well.”

Shirley’s family moved down to Fort St. John from Yukon when she was a young girl. She was a member of the Dease First Nation of the Tahltan Kaska community.

She grew up surrounded by a tight-knit extended family and eventually had five children of her own.

At the time of her disappearance, she was living with her sister and working at a sawmill.

On June 10, 2006, Shirley went to a backyard barbecue at a house across the street from where she lived. She never came home.

Since that weekend, Shirley’s sister, Bev Cletheroe, has been on a goose chase for answers.

“The last three investigators that are supposed to be on it — I’ve talked to them,” Bev said.

“They’re either retired or transferred.”

In 2013 — seven years after Shirley went missing — Bev says that the case’s lead investigator in Prince George, B.C. received a government grant to invest in a private investigative team.

Bev was determined to see the team through.

“I waited like, a year and a half, and then I phoned back again to keep checking, to see what’s going on,” Bev said.

“Then they answered the phone... ‘Oh she, she got transferred.’ And I was like, you’ve got to be kidding.”

A private investigative team for Shirley never came to fruition before that lead investigator was relocated.

Bev was then referred to a sergeant in Fort St. John, about a 5 hour drive south.

But when she met with them, she was told her sister’s case is actually being handled in Prince George because of it’s “cold case” status.

“I said ‘so what’s [going on] here? Just passing me back and forth?’” Bev said, recalling her last interaction with the RCMP, which in 2015, was less than one year ago.

“Like you’re trying to get rid of me? I said ‘you’re not getting rid of me.’”

Bev’s tireless efforts to break through inaction and rumours surrounding Shirley’s disappearance is evident to Brent.

“My auntie was ferocious with the RCMP. I mean, she camped out there for them to do something,” he said.

“And in a small town, it's not like nobody knew that was going on. It’s just that they didn’t dig deep enough that they would have to do something about it.”

While Brent says a federal inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous girls and women sounds great in theory, he is not sure what it will do for the country in practice.

“There was already the formal apology to aboriginals from Stephen Harper or government... And this is just the next layer of it... That’s just speaking of the residential schools,” he said.

“But now we’re getting to the real nitty gritty which is, you know, why is 75 per cent of people living in foster care native kids? Why are the prisons full of native people? Why are these investigations never ever successful?”

Meanwhile, Bev’s next step is to meet with a brand new RCMP investigator back in Prince George.

As the case grows older, the family says they’ll continue their own searches for Shirley through back roads and the bush.