Fort McMurray man raising awareness about missing Indigenous woman last seen 8 years ago

Martin Crummy protested on street corners around downtown Fort McMurray over the Canada Day long weekend to raise awareness about Janice Desjarlais, a missing Indigenous woman last seen nearly eight years ago.

Security footage shows Janice Desjarlais climbing into a dumpster with her boyfriend in 2010

'Enough is enough of our missing and murdered Indigenous women going away from us'

5 years ago
Duration 1:16
Martin Crummy and Adam McDonald picketed street corners around downtown Fort McMurray to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women through one victim– Janice Desjarlais.

Martin Crummy protested on street corners around downtown Fort McMurray over the Canada Day long weekend to raise awareness about Janice Desjarlais, a missing Indigenous woman last seen nearly eight years ago. 

Crummy started his protest a few metres from where Desjarlais was last spotted — in a metal dumpster outside the Centre of Hope, a homeless drop-in centre in downtown Fort McMurray.

Crummy took his protest to various locations around the city, holding a sign and handing out business cards to pedestrians and passing vehicles, urging people to call their MLA and MP.

"Can you pass that along and make a call? She deserves better than she got," he told one driver.

Dumpster emptied with Desjarlais inside

Desjarlais climbed into a dumpster with her boyfriend on a cold October night in 2010.

Security footage showed that her boyfriend later climbed out of the dumpster. The next morning a garbage truck emptied the bin with Desjarlais inside.

Crummy, who works with homeless people in Fort McMurray, knew Desjarlais personally.

He remembers that before she went missing, Desjarlais and her boyfriend's tent burned down, which is why they sought refuge in a dumpster.

RCMP doing everything to solve the case

Cpl. Terri-Ann Deobald said on Tuesday that Wood Buffalo RCMP believe Desjarlais is dead but the investigation is still active and she is classified as missing because her body wasn't recovered.

Deobald said Desjarlais went missing on October 1 and her boyfriend reported her missing two days later.

Police searched the landfill night and day looking for Desjarlais, sectioning off an area of the dump where the truck Desjarlais had been in emptied its load .

Deobald said the area was the size of a football field and police searched two meters deep for nine days. 

They also searched the perimeter of the excavated area.

"I do believe the members are doing everything to solve this file," Deobald said.

Crummy said he doesn't understand why the police gave up, and wants answers about whether investigators searched hard enough.

Martin Crummy poses with a poster he made of missing Indigenous woman Janice Desjarlais. (David Thurton/ CBC)

He said he hopes his protest reawakens these questions he thinks were dismissed too quickly.

"I am hoping there will be a free discussion on this. I am hoping that if it is decided that her remains are in the regional municipality landfill, that the mayor would say 'We better reopen this and we better do something,' Crummy said.

"That our MLA would say, 'I am not happy with this. I am not comfortable with this; re-open the investigation.'"

Adam McDonald, who stood with Crummy, hopes people don't forget Desjarlais is just one of thousands of missing Indigenous persons whose cases are unsolved.

"Enough is enough of our murdered Indigenous women going away from us," McDonald said. "And it is time to fight back."

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 


David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories. He can be reached at david.thurton@cbc.ca