'I felt let down': Missing woman's daughter disappointed in Edmonton police response

Another family member of a missing woman raised questions about the police to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Edmonton Thursday.

Vanessa Corado is still searching for her mother Freda Whiteman, who vanished in 2006

Vanessa Corado is hoping the inquiry's work can lead to a break in the case of her mother Freda Whiteman, who has been missing since 2006. (CBC)

Eleven years after the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Vanessa Corado still can't bring herself to hold a memorial service.

"That would be putting my mom to rest," Corado told the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Edmonton on Thursday.

Corado told the inquiry she's been carrying the hurt, pain and worry since her mother Freda Whiteman went missing without a trace in October 2006.

Staff at the Bissell Centre, where Whiteman was a regular, first raised the alarm after noticing she had not been around to pick up her mail.

From putting up posters with photos of her mom, to sharing her story over and over on social media, Corado said she's tried everything she can think of.

"I've done everything I could," she said.

Vanessa Corado said she initially blamed herself for her mother's disappearance after an argument in which she told her mom not to come home until she was sober. (CBC)

Corado's efforts in putting up the posters in downtown Edmonton, where her mother spent most of her time, didn't lead to any answers about what happened to her.

But the big message she had for the inquiry Thursday was that she felt alone in her search without the support she had expected from police.

At the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Vanessa Corado describes the impact of having her mother go missing. 1:18

Corado recalled going to file a missing person's report in January 2007 but being told to give it a few days because her mom lived a high-risk lifestyle.

"That was like a kick in the face, because no matter what my mom did, she's still a missing person — you can't blame her," Corado said during the inquiry's final day of community hearings in Edmonton.

Frustration with missing-person file

Problems with alcohol and drugs often put her mother in vulnerable situations, Corado said, but she always stayed in touch.

After finally starting a missing-person file going, or so she thought, Corado said she received an update from Edmonton police in 2009 and another in 2010.

She said she heard that police had questioned people downtown and found no leads.

But it was a couple of years later she remembers getting the most disheartening news.

"I went again in 2012 and they told me I hadn't even filed a missing persons report on my mom," she said.

A photo of Vanessa Corado's mother Freda Whiteman was shown on the screen behind her as she spoke to the inquiry. (Vanessa Corado)

Corado told the inquiry team holding the hearing she knows she filed the paperwork, but at the time — and also dealing with the grief of the death of her son — she didn't know what to do.

"I just walked out of the police station and I felt let down," she said.

Several people presenting to the inquiry have raised complaints their cases have not been treated seriously enough by police.

Inquiry has powers to audit police files

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson told Corado she had taken note that the issue had emerged as a key theme of the hearings.

She promised the inquiry would eventually be hearing from the police, and from the child welfare systems in the country.

"These systems that are supposed to be in place to serve and protect and help us — what are they doing about the issue of violence, and what are they not doing?" Robinson said.

She added the inquiry has the authority to request documents.

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson told Corado she wasn't the first witness to raise concerns about police. (CBC)

"We are requesting documents and we're doing some audits of police files to see if things were done right," Robinson said. She said her comments were general and not about any specific cases.

'Quicker, sooner, faster'

When asked about her recommendations, Corado said she wants to see change in how the files of missing and murdered Indigenous women are handled.

"Things should be done quicker, sooner, faster," she told the hearing.

Dealing with the pain has been a tough task, she explained, especially since the last time she talked to her mother, it wasn't a happy conversation.

"I blamed myself because we had argued that day about her drinking and I told her to come back when she was sober. Maybe if I told her she could have stayed this wouldn't have happened," she said.

Counselling has helped her over the years, she said. Now, she's holding out hope the work of the inquiry can lead to a break in the case.

"Always tell someone you love them because you never know if you'll see them tomorrow," she said.

The inquiry has now wrapped up its hearings in Edmonton.

Its final report is expected by the end of 2018 but commissioners said Thursday they would be asking for an extension to that deadline.