Ottawa

Mary Papatsie mourned at makeshift memorial in Vanier

People have set up a makeshift memorial to Mary Papatsie at a worksite in Vanier where the Inuk woman's remains were discovered in September.

Papatsie family in process of planning formal memorial service, brother says

Tommy Papatsie, brother of Mary Papatsie, visited the memorial to his sister set up on Deschamps Avenue in the east Ottawa community of Vanier.
Tommy Papatsie, brother of Mary Papatsie, visited the memorial to his sister set up on Deschamps Avenue in the Ottawa community of Vanier. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

A makeshift memorial on Deschamps Avenue marks the site where human remains were discovered — remains Ottawa police said this week belong to Mary Papatsie.

The Inuk woman, who was 39 at the time of her April 2017 disappearance, is being remembered for her caring and quick smile.

Her brother Tommy Papatsie came to see the memorial on Monday with one of Mary's childhood friends. He said it's been difficult for the family to process.

"We just broke into tears. It's been a really hard couple of days. We're still going through it. In a way, we are grateful her remains were found," Tommy said.

"We were completely lost for the last five years."

WATCH | Mary's brother talks about his sister:

Mary Papatsie will ‘rest peacefully’ now that her remains have been found, brother says

3 months ago
Duration 1:25
Tommy Papatsie says his family has been “completely lost” for the last five years after the disappearance of his sister, Mary Papatsie.

There were a dozen floral arrangements hanging in the construction fence next to a red dress, a symbol that commemorates missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Tommy said he was grateful for the display.

"It makes me feel better. I'm sure there are a lot of good people out there who remember Mary well," he said.

'She is part of our community'

Shirley Tessier, who said she knew Mary, visited the memorial on Sunday.

"I feel it's very important to remember her because she is part of our community," Tessier told Radio-Canada.

"Being an Indigenous lady, I can relate to the situation. Because we have had many, many murdered, missing Indigenous women and children."

Mary was the youngest of eight siblings. She had 10 children. 

Papatsie's family had previously told CBC News she'd been an easygoing young woman who was raised in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, on Baffin Island.

Mary Papatsie had last been seen in the area of Montreal Road and Marier Street, according to Ottawa police. (Ottawa police handout)

She'd been working in the North assisting doctors and nurses, her sister July Papatsie told CBC in 2019, when she was sexually assaulted about two decades ago. She then moved to Ottawa and was living on the streets in the nation's capital at the time of her disappearance.

The Ottawa Police Service's major crime unit took over the file two and a half months after Papatsie disappeared, and in September 2017 announced it had deemed the disappearance suspicious.

In late September, the police service's homicide unit began investigating the discovery of potential human remains unearthed at a construction site east of Ottawa's downtown core.

"She was always smiling. She cared a lot about other people," Tommy Papatsie said. "Even though she had her own demons, she would [go] out of her way to help other people."

Tommy said the family is planning a memorial event. He said he hopes this latest revelation will help provide answers to what happened to his sister.

Ottawa police said anyone with information is urged to contact the homicide unit or Crime Stoppers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at matthew.kupfer@cbc.ca and on Twitter @matthewkupfer

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