Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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After Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner determined that there was no foul play in the death of 16-year-old Delaine Copenace, a regional coroner overturned the decision and said the investigation was not complete.

Copenace, an Ojibway teen from Onigaming First Nation in northwestern Ontario, was known as a “homebody” by her family and closest friends. She was reported missing in Kenora, Ont., on Feb. 28, 2016.

After a highly publicized search, her body was recovered from a nearby lake on March 22.

Her mother, Anita Ross, does not agree with the coroner’s initial findings that her daughter had drowned with no evidence of foul play.

“They strongly feel she was out there alone, but I don’t think she was,” said Ross.

“My daughter was a very smart girl and there would be no reason for her to be out on the ice.”

According to Ross, Kenora OPP suggested that Delaine may have wanted to end her life.

“The police themselves cannot even answer my questions. I’m like, ‘How did she get in there? Where did she go in there?’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t know,’” she said.

“Well, I can’t trust people that say, ‘I don’t know.’”

For Ross, too many questions remain unanswered by officials. First and foremost, according to her, was that police did not bother to look for her daughter until three days had passed.

“There were two officers that came to the house, and both of them automatically said, ‘Oh, she probably just ran away,’” she said.

Ross had only more questions once her daughter’s body was recovered.

“Her face still had colour [and] her lips still had colour,” she said. Police later explained that it was because the body was “well preserved.”

Her mother believes Delaine’s wrists looked like they may have been bound together.

And although she was told Delaine’s body had been in the water from the time she went missing, her skin showed little wrinkling, Ross said.

“It looked like she wasn't in there very long,” she asserted.

Ross said the area where her daughter was found had been searched at least 100 times by family, friends, police dogs, and even police divers.

“There were no reported holes where her body was and the water is not very deep in that area,” she said.

“There was no current around the shores.”

Still, Kenora OPP say they found no evidence of foul play and Delaine's death was determined by the coroner to be caused by drowning. However, the coroner’s case is still open and the OPP continue to support that investigation.

“There’s a lot of people across Canada that tell me that my daughter's death is suspicious,” said Ross.

“I believe something happened to my daughter. I have many unanswered questions by [police] and they can’t explain it. Until they can prove it to me — that she walked there on her own and jumped into the ice — then I will consider it an accident, but right now I don't accept what they’re telling me.”

These days, Delaine’s family often turn to memories of her.

Ross still laughs at the memory of a 12-year-old Delaine, running into her bedroom one night when they first moved to Kenora.

"She was screaming there was a UFO floating outside her window,” she recalled.

It's all Delaine's family can do while they wait for the investigation to conclude.

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

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Contact us by email at mmiw@cbc.ca or anonymously via SecureDrop.

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.