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Sunshine Wood’s father, Anthony Wood, remembers her as a girl who loved to laugh.
She was born on April 6, 1987, and her name was her mom’s idea.
Sunshine lived on Manitoba’s Manto Sipi Cree Nation as a child.
Growing up, she spent about six months in foster care, says her father. By the time she was 16, she had moved to Winnipeg, Man. for high school.
She made that move in September 2003, and enrolled at Gordon Bell High School.
Wood says Sunshine stayed with family at first, but at some point she moved in with a woman named Priscilla.
He says he’s not sure how Sunshine came to know Priscilla, but that the woman took his daughter in.
Sunshine stayed in touch.
“She always phoned,” Wood said.
But on Feb. 21, 2004, while in Winnipeg visiting family, Wood learned his daughter was missing.
It turns out Sunshine disappeared just before midnight the night before: She was last seen in front of the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Feb. 20, 2004.
A surveillance photo from that night shows Sunshine in what appears to be the hotel lobby, smiling, holding open a door.
In the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) description of Sunshine, her disappearance is referred to as out-of-character and it is noted that Sunshine was not a chronic runaway. The WPS also says she was street smart.
When asked about barriers Sunshine might have been dealing with at the time, like drug or alcohol abuse, Wood says it wasn’t a problem for the teen.
He describes Sunshine as a more or less typical teenager; a girl who liked to hang out with her friends.
But Sunshine’s life took a turn that’s far from typical.
She’s become a smiling face on a missing person’s poster, frozen in time as a teenage girl who has been gone for more than a decade.
Wood is neutral in his assessment of the police investigation.
He says since Sunshine’s case became part of the joint task force between RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service, Project Devote, he’s been getting monthly updates from police.
Still, he says he’s not sure what action they’re putting into place.
“I don’t know what they’re doing right now regarding the investigation, because they never told
me what details they’re doing,” he said.
Wood speaks highly of the help the family received from a group called Child Find Manitoba.
He says Child Find helped get the word out about Sunshine’s disappearance by putting posters
up, and taking tips.
In 2015, Wood stays on top of the conversation about missing and murdered indigenous
girls and women in Canada.
He followed the developments leading up to a roundtable in Ottawa that took place in February 2015 and at the time, said he’d like to attend.
But when it comes to a national inquiry into the issue, Wood isn’t so sure. The loss of his daughter has resulted in him losing hope, as he know it won’t bring her back.
“It’s a first step to find out why there are so many women, missing and murdered, mostly
aboriginal,” he said.
“But what’s the sense?”
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.