Christine Wood's parents should never give up, says mom who found missing daughter

Marilyn Courchene knows all too well what Christine Wood's parents are going through and she's urging them to not give up — and never stay still.

Marilyn Courchene tells missing woman's family 'every minute counts'

Christine Wood was last seen on the evening of Aug. 19 in the St. James area of Winnipeg. She was staying with family at a hotel in Winnipeg and went out for the evening. She never returned. (CBC)

Marilyn Courchene knows all too well what Christine Wood's parents are going through and she's urging them to not give up — and never stay still.

Parents of missing children need police but can't rely solely on their help, Courchene said. They need to get out there, often into frightening situations, to save their kids, she said.

Marilyn Courchene says Christine Wood's parents need to talk with everyone and follow every lead on where their daughter might be. (Courtesy Marilyn Courchene)

"I said to them every minute counts, every hour, every day. You need to be out there on the streets looking. You need to talk with people — it doesn't matter who. Pass your fliers out," said Courchene, who spoke with Wood's mother and father, Melinda and George, on Wednesday.

"You need to go to places that you feel she might be at. Go there and talk to others. That's how you might get information. A lot of street people, I said, will help you."

Wood, from Oxford House First Nation, was last seen on the evening of Aug. 19 in the St. James area of Winnipeg. She was staying with family at a hotel and went out for the evening. She never returned and calls and texts to her cellphone have gone unanswered.

Since that time, a number of potential sightings have been reported to investigators, according to police, who say she was possibly observed in the Osborne Village area, downtown near Portage Place Shopping Centre and in the St. James area, east of Polo Park.

Wood is described as 5-foot-6, with an average build and shoulder-length dark brown hair. She was last seen wearing a green top with a red striped Adidas jacket and denim shorts. She was carrying a white purse.

Courchene's own daughter ran away and went missing in Winnipeg in 2005. Courchene pounded the pavement, got to know people on the street and even spent hours at Portage Place, handing out her daughter's photo, talking to retailers and security guards.

"My experience was 11 years ago, but yesterday [talking to George and Melinda] was like opening up wounds again. It was like reliving it," said Courchene, adding she has faith Wood will be found.

"I believe she's alive and well but being held somewhere. I believe that in my heart."

She suggested the Woods speak to sex trade workers, whom she found helpful and kind when she was desperate to find her daughter.

People whose lives revolve around the streets are often likely to have seen or heard something, said Courchene, who also told the Woods how she studied the criminal activity in Portage Place and spoke with those people.

'Enough of this. As Indigenous nations, we gotta pull together and help one of our children here come back home to her mom.'- Marilyn Courchene

​"The people that were doing the criminal activities ended up asking what am I doing here, why am I sitting here? I told them I was looking for my daughter and they, in turn, took my photos of my girl and ended up helping me," she said.

They told her where they saw her daughter in the city and what buses she had been seen riding. But it was a scary experience, Courchene said.

She once watched men on Rollerblades skate up, grab a young girl and shove her inside a car that quickly pulled up then took off.

"But there was nothing I could say because they were helping me. I had to leave it alone in order to save my girl. It was a tough, tough thing to do."

Turn up the heat

She eventually learned her daughter was at a house in the West End. Courchene went there, ignoring the danger she might face.

"You know, a mother's adrenaline, you don't care. I just walked in there and said I want my girl back, I know she's here somewhere."

Her daughter wasn't there at the time but Courchene later received a phone call from the girl, telling Courchene to meet her on the street because she was coming home.

Asked why she was let go, Courchene's daughter said, "Mom, you were bringing too much heat."

"They didn't like that" so they let her go, Courchene said, adding her daughter is now a mother herself, with three children.

Courchene believes that same heat is being turned up now in the pursuit of Christine Wood.

There is media attention and on Wednesday, the Bear Clan joined the search.

"She's a remarkable case. There's a tremendous amount of people who really love and care for this woman," the group's leader, James Favel, said.

Bear Clan volunteers are out searching Winnipeg streets, putting up posters and urging people to come forward with tips. They will meet at Ndinawe Resource Centre, 472 Selkirk Ave., at 6 p.m. Thursday to continue the search.

"Basically the family just wants to know that she's safe and we're trying to facilitate that," said Favel.

Bear Clan help search for missing 21-year-old woman

7 years ago
Duration 1:10
The Bear Clan was keeping an eye out for Christine Wood during their weekly search Wednesday night. Wood went missing Aug. 19.

Courchene said women from several First Nations are also heading to the city on Monday to help search. 

"We're coming down with the drums, and the women will be walking from the Perimeter to The Forks," Courchene said.

​"Enough of this. As Indigenous nations, we gotta pull together and help one of our children here come back home to her mom."

Courchene also advised Wood's parents to check their daughter's computer, the history of her communications.

"They need to see who she was talking with — the last person," she said. "These are the main things: You check computers, you stay at the places where she was last seen and ask for help there."

Make everyone aware, Courchene said.