Manitoba

2nd year of Drag the Red effort gets underway in Winnipeg

A group of volunteers hit the Red River Tuesday in hopes of dredging up clues that might help with unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.

'I just believe it needs to be done,' says Kyle Kematch, who quit his job last year to search for sister

A group of volunteers hit the Red River Tuesday in hopes of dredging up clues that might help with unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. 1:34
A group of volunteers hit the Red River Tuesday in hopes of dredging up clues that might help with unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.
The second year of the Drag the Red search effort got underway May 19. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)

Bernadette Smith started Drag the Red last fall after Tina Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River August 17. Smith's sister Claudette Osborne disappeared in 2008.

In its second year, the initiative has grown significantly and now boasts a volunteer pool 120-strong, which includes Kyle Kematch.

Kematch's sister Amber Guiboche went missing Nov. 10, 2010.
Drag the Red began Sept. 17, 2014 with volunteers on both the water and shore. Those in the boats dropped metal bars and hooks about four metres deep and trolled the river, while those on the bank combed through the grass, trees and shrubs. (CBC)

"It's like a double-edged sword," Kematch said. "I don't want to find her in there. I want her to come home."

He quit his job last year to devote all of his time to looking for Guiboche through Drag the Red.

"No one really searched the river before and last year was the first time," he said. "The Winnipeg police haven't done it and I just believe it needs to be done."

Police said in April that while they wouldn't be actively participating in proactive searches, they do plan to keep a watchful eye on the group to make sure everyone is safe.

"We will continue to support their efforts from a safety standpoint to ensure that their searches are carried out in the safest possible manner," Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said April 1. "We will also continue to offer assistance with regards to our knowledge of the river."

7 bodies

Smith said last year police pulled seven bodies from the Red River — four while the group was searching. 
Bernadette Smith's sister Claudette Osborne disappeared in 2008 and hasn't been seen since. (CBC)

She said that even though it wasn't Drag the Red members who found them, there were times when volunteers snagged things while combing the river bottom.

"They didn't have big enough hooks to pick it up, so this year we ordered in seal hooks," said Smith. "They're on a big stick, so if that ever happens again, they have a tool to use to bring up something that's bigger."

Along with seal hooks, the group managed to raise money to buy another boat. Volunteers will also have help from a forensic anthropologist and receive basic searching training.

"They'll have a training day for our land searchers, so that's pretty exciting for us, [to] have someone who has the experience to know what to look for," said Smith.​

The group plans to search every day until October.

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