'She had dreams': Aunt remembers Łútselk'e girl who went missing 30 years ago
15-year-old Charlene Catholique was last seen walking along Highway 3
Anne Catholique says her family is still in pain over the disappearance of her young niece 30 years ago.
Charlene Catholique was last seen on July 22, 1990, walking along Highway 3 near the Rae Access Road to Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T., trying to catch a ride to Yellowknife. She was 15 years old at the time.
"She had her whole life ahead of her. She had plans, she had dreams," said Anne. "All we have now is memories and prayers, and I hope and pray something will come about, find out whatever happened to her."
On Wednesday, 30 years to the day since Charlene went missing, Yellowknife RCMP's Historical Case Unit released a reminder that the investigation into Charlene's disappearance remains "open [and] active."
RCMP say Charlene, who was from Łutselk'e, N.W.T., had travelled to Yellowknife for the Dene National Assembly in Dettah, N.W.T., before travelling to Behchokǫ̀.
In December of 1990, the Edmonton Journal reported that Charlene "met up with some teenagers from Fort Rae" (now Behchokǫ̀). In the report, police say foul play hadn't been ruled out.
In Anne's view, the RCMP didn't do enough to find out what happened to Charlene.
"Nobody's doing anything about it. It's a shut case for them, but it's not like that for us. It's an ongoing thing for us," she said.
Many investigators assigned to case over the years
The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said more remote RCMP detachments are often staffed by young and inexperienced officers, and have a high turnover rate. The report says this means an unsolved disappearance or death could have several investigators assigned to the case.
It gives the example of an Indigenous teenage girl who went missing in the N.W.T., but doesn't name her.
"Since 1990, more than a dozen lead investigators and upwards of 250 investigators in total have been involved with investigating her disappearance," the report says. "The file remains unsolved."
Cpl. Mike Lewis, with the N.W.T. RCMP's Historical Case Unit, said he couldn't confirm whether the girl mentioned in the inquiry report was Charlene, but that many investigators have come and gone from her file over the years.
If she had problems, she would talk to me. If I was sad, she would comfort me.- Anne Catholique, aunt of Charlene Catholique
Lewis said he couldn't speak to how exactly Charlene's case was investigated in the '90s, or the specific techniques RCMP are using today.
He did say that, in general, police investigating historical cases could use DNA technology, which "really wasn't a thing" 30 years ago, as well as "[unconventional] policing techniques." He also said sometimes simply "getting a fresh look" at these old files helps.
Since the RCMP's release about Charlene went out on Wednesday, Lewis said, some tips have come in.
"We thank the public for that," he said.
Father went through 'the most agony'
Anne said she and Charlene were very close.
"She always shared things with me about her young life," she said. "If she had problems, she would talk to me. If I was sad, she would comfort me."
When Anne's partner died in 1987, Charlene was there for her, even though she was just a child.
"She was really young but she kind of understood," said Anne. "When she became missing shortly after, it was really hard."
Anne said Charlene's father, Joe Catholique, "went through the most agony." He died not knowing what happened to his daughter.
On June 9, 2017, the Northwest Territories Supreme Court made an order stating there were reasonable grounds to presume Charlene was dead.
63 unsolved missing persons cases in N.W.T.
As of July 22, there were 63 unsolved missing persons cases in the Northwest Territories, according to RCMP.
Lewis said police can't say how many of these involve children because some files, like those from the 1950s and '60s, don't have dates of birth recorded, or the dates the people went missing. He did say that the number believed to be children is "fairly low."
The RCMP don't say how many missing people are Indigenous women either, said Lewis.
"It is not really my place to say why those decisions are made," he said.