British Columbia

Family, friends demand justice for Indigenous woman found dead near Smithers, B.C.

RCMP are still investigating the death of Jessica Patrick, 18, who was found near Smithers, B.C., in September 2018. She was last seen leaving a motel along the infamous Highway of Tears.

Police still investigating death of Jessica Patrick, 18, last seen leaving motel on Highway of Tears

Family and friends of Jessica Patrick, whose body was found Sept. 15, 2018 outside Smithers, B.C., fixed a cross to a tree during an event held Saturday. (Daniel Mesec)

Family and friends of an Indigenous woman found dead near Smithers, B.C., are demanding justice.

On Saturday they marched and laid a cross at the site outside the northwestern town where 18-year-old Jessica Patrick was found dead in September 2018.

"We needed our voices to be heard saying that we are still waiting … we're still waiting for some answers here," said Mary Nicholas, a relative of Patrick's who was part of the team that found her body.

Patrick, who had a daughter, was last seen Aug. 31, 2018 near a motel along Highway 16, which is commonly referred to as the Highway of Tears.

Jessica Patrick, 18, went missing at the end of August 2018. She had a one-year-old daughter at the time. (Facebook)

Patrick's body was discovered Sept. 15, 2018 on a hillside known as the Hudson Bay lookout.

Nicholas said Saturday's event was meant to spread awareness of all the missing and murdered women in the province.

Mary Nicholas, left, and Jacquie Bowes are both related to Jessica Patrick and don't want her death to become a cold case. (Dan Mesec)

Advocates estimate more than 40 women and girls, mostly Indigenous, have gone missing or been murdered since 1969 along the 700-kilometre stretch of highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

The RCMP say they are is still working on Patrick's case but won't say if she was murdered, only that the file is "active and ongoing."

Family and friends of Jessica Patrick mourned the 18-year-old on Saturday at a special ceremony at the location where her body was found. (Dan Mesec)

Jacquie Bowes, a cousin of Patrick's, organized Saturday's event and hopes it will keep pressure on investigators.

"We are refusing to have this case as a cold case like all the other files that happened," she said.

Selena Williams was friends with Jessica Patrick. Both women are members of the Lake Babine First Nation. (Dan Mesec)

Selena Williams attended the event and said Patrick was one of her closest friends. Both are from the Lake Babine Nation. 

"She is one of the murdered or missing Indigenous women that I have known personally and that impacted my life so much that I wanted my voice to be heard," she said, noting that she wants justice for not only Patrick but others as well.

On Monday, a ceremony will be held in Gatineau, Que., to present the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls.

The report is more than 1,200 pages and includes over 230 recommendations.

It describes the murders and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous women and girls across the country as a "Canadian genocide."

For immediate emotional assistance, call 1-844-413-6649. This is a national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line providing support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. You can also access long-term health support services such as mental health counselling and community-based cultural services through Indigenous Services Canada.

With files from Betsy Trumpener