'She was really full of life': Remembering the whirlwind woman

Anastasia Cywink remembers her older sister Sonya Nadine as the sibling who was always the first one to try things.

Ontario Provincial Police offering $60,000 reward for information that resolves Sonya Cywink's murder

Sonya Nadine Cywink was found dead at the age of 31 in Elgin County, Ont., on August 30, 1994. (Ontario Provincial Police)

Anastasia Cywink remembers her older sister Sonya Nadine as the sibling who was always the first one to try things.

"First one to jump in the lake in the morning or first one to try out smoking a cigarette," Cywink said with a laugh. 

"She was full of life."

Sonya also loved to write letters and poetry, according to Cywink. 

Sonya was the second-youngest of 13 siblings from Whitefish River First Nation near Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario. 

Sonya's name means the "whirlwind woman" in Anishinabek.

"Whenever I see a whirlwind, I think of her," Cywink said.

Sonya eventually left Whitefish River for southern Ontario.

She was last seen alive on August 25, 1994 in the Dundas and Lyle Street area of London, Ont.

Her body was found five days later on August 30 at an Indigenous historical site known as the Southwold Earthworks in Southwold Township, Elgin County southwest of London, Ont. 

"It was hard," Cywink said. "I really couldn't believe it."

'Why would you want to kill a mother?'

Ontario Provincial Police are offering a $60,000 reward for information that could lead to an arrest and conviction in connection to Sonya's murder. 

Cywink said Sonya was 31-years-old and pregnant at the time of her death.

Cywink wants to find out who killed her sister and why. 

"I want to ask them like why would you want to kill a mother," Cywink said. 

"Why would you want to kill a woman with a baby inside of her?"

Since Sonya's murder happened 23 years ago, Sgt. David Rektor said the investigation is challenging. 

But Rektor said provincial police remain hopeful. 

"Investigators are very interested in resolving it and bringing it to a conclusion," Rektor said. 

"As new technology comes into play, oftentimes it's redeployed to these cases to try to find new information."

Cywink said she thinks about her sister every day. 

"I'm always expecting her to walk through the door and say 'hi, how are you doing,' with a big smile," Cywink said.

"It's sad that my kids never got to know her."

Wants inquiry to improve services for northern families

Cywink is part of a coalition of 12 people who communicate with each other about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

She said they want commissioners to take a more grassroots approach, and provide more services for northern families. 

"What are our rights," Cywink asked. 

"What kind of services [are there] especially for the northern communities where there's actually families that have somebody missing or murdered, but they don't know how to deal with it?"

Cywink's other sister Maggie is a special advisor for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General to support the some-200 families in the province whose loved ones are on the list of cases the inquiry will look into.

Most of all, Cywink said she just wants people to know who Sonya was. 

"We don't want to concentrate on how she died. That's up to the police," Cywink said.

"We want people to realize that these murdered, missing women could've been your sister. They could've been your auntie, your mother."

Tune into CBC Sudbury's Morning North at 7:20 a.m. ET during the week of October 23 to hear a new series called Unresolved, about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from northeastern Ontario. Listen live here.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: