Families mark 5 years since 2 teens disappeared

The families of two missing aboriginal women are raising awareness once more on the fifth anniversary of their disappearance from Maniwaki, Que.

Annual march, vigil for Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander in Maniwaki, Que., Friday evening

Maisy Odjick, left, and Shannon Alexander, right, haven't been seen or heard from since they went missing from Maniwaki, Que., in September 2008. (Photos courtesy of the families)

The families of two missing aboriginal women are raising awareness once more on the fifth anniversary of their disappearance from Maniwaki, Que.

Maisy Odjick was 16 and Shannon Alexander was 17 when they were last seen in Maniwaki in September 2008.

Maisy Odjick, left, and Shannon Alexander, right, went dancing before they disappeared, their families said. (Photos courtesy of the families)

It was a Friday night, and they were heading out to dance. They had planned to spend the night at Alexander's house.

But the girls never returned. The next day, Alexander's father found that the girls had left their purses, wallets, identification, backpacks and medication behind.

Maria Jacko, Odjick's aunt, runs a website about the missing girls and the $20,000 reward.

"For me it feels surreal, because really I've never, ever thought we would hit five years. When a family member goes missing, you don't think they're going to be missing for that long," Jacko said.

"I thought they would be found by now. I thought at least we would have answers or something. But to be clueless, to be left with nothing, to me it's still surreal."

'It's hard for us every day'

Maisy Odjick's mother, Laurie Odjick, said her husband, three other children and support from the community help keep her going.

"It's hard for us every day, but especially on the day of their anniversary, for their vigil, because it feels to us as if it's happening all over again from day one. ... It's hard emotionally on us, very hard."

The families hold a march and vigil in Kitigan Zibi every year. Laurie Odjick said she still gets calls from police investigators, but that no progress has been made.

"I realize that we have no leads, but I expect that we would have something, something tangible that we can go on right now. And to still be at nothing, it is frustrating," Jacko said.

Calls for national inquiry

In 2010, the Native Women's Association of Canada estimated there were 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women in the country, and the organization believes that number has grown.

It wants a public inquiry into the matter, which was echoed by provincial and territorial leaders this summer. But the federal government hasn't yet agreed to launch one.

"We want an inquiry because we want answers, and that's all we want," Laurie Odjick said.

"We want answers as to why all these women, aboriginal women, go missing. And not only women, there's men also. That's all we want, is answers as to why this is happening and as to why we don't get the attention our family members deserve, and the proper investigations that they deserve."

Jacko, meanwhile, believes someone has important information about Maisy and Shannon.

"It's been five years, and I think somebody knows something," she said. "Too much time has passed, and I think it's time that somebody speaks up."