Calgary police end search for Indigenous woman's body parts

The Calgary Police Service recently ended their search for an Indigenous woman's body parts at a city landfill.

Family of Joey English bury her remains, despite case not being officially closed

Joey English, from the Piikani Nation in Alberta, was caring and compassionate, her family says. She was a mother of three children. (Submitted by Stephanie English)

The search for an Indigenous woman's remains at a Calgary landfill is over and that's news to her family.

They say the Calgary Police Service hasn't kept them in the loop about the case of Joey English, 25.

English's partial remains were found in the early morning on June 11, 2016, in a lightly forested area in the Crescent Heights neighbourhood. 

Calgary police told CBC the case is not being considered a homicide, but the family did not know that detail.

Family reported her missing two days prior to the gruesome discovery. 

Joshua Weise, 40, of Calgary, has been charged with offering an indignity to human remains at the time of English's death. One month later, he was released on bail but breached his conditions twice in July. He is now back in custody.

CBC News has learned a search of the landfill by the Calgary Police Service has now come to an end after four months. 

"If I was a different colour race, they'd keep searching. I know that," said Stephanie English, Joey English's mother. 

"They would keep up with me, the detective would inform me, [and] the crown prosecutor would inform me," she added.

Burial for daughter's partial remains 

The Calgary Police did not alert the family that they have ended their search.  According to the family, police have not provided regular updates about the case. 

In October, the Office of the Chief Coroner contacted Stephanie English to tell her that her daughter's body was ready to be picked up — but not all of Joey's body was present. 

"I'm actually feeling like garbage, that's exactly how they're treating this whole case. I feel I am nothing and that I'm not important," said English, adding her daughter's remains were in a sealed bag inside a coffin.

"I gave birth to a whole, complete daughter and why do I have to bury her not complete." 

English said the family is not being told if there are completed reports from the police service or the Office of the Chief Coroner concerning Joey's case. 

Also, English said the family is confused as to why the Office of the Chief Coroner released her daughter's remains if the case is not officially closed

On October 25, the family buried the partial remains of Joey on the Piikani Nation, located near Brocket, Alberta. 

She is buried next to her younger sister, Alison English. She died June 8, 2015 on the Sunchild First Nation in Alberta. RCMP ruled her death was a suicide, but the family doesn't agree with that.

'Horrendous situation'

In an email statement, a spokesperson from the Calgary Police Service said all protocols and procedures were followed in the Joey English case, as in any other homicide investigation. Detectives explored all possible investigative avenues to determine whether Joey's death was criminal, according to the statement.

Photos on display at memorial for Joey English in Vancouver, B.C. July 15, 2016. (Kat Cut'samulwut Norris)
A full forensic examination of the crime scene was conducted, the force said, including a search of the area where it is believed Joey's remains were hidden, multiple interviews with the suspect and witnesses and a search of the landfill. 

Currently there is no evidence to show Joey died as result of a homicide, Calgary Police said. The service is now waiting for a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner as to her cause of death. 

The investigation cannot move forward as a homicide investigation unless new evidence comes forward. 

Kim Stanton, legal director with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund Inc. (LEAF) is angry at how the family has been treated, but said she isn't surprised. 

"This kind of horrendous situation that causes deep trauma to the family and community is unfortunately not unique to the English family," said Stanton.

​Bringing Joey home, waving red flags 

"We did a little procession and we followed her home. I actually rode with her home," said English about the funeral. 

Joey's partial remains were sealed and buried on the Piikani Nation. 

Funeral procession for Joey English on the Piikani Nation in Alberta. (Facebook/supplied by family)
"When we went home the first time on [October] 21st, and we followed her home, our people in Piikani they stood at every cross way waving a red flag for us," says English crying. 

English is now asking lawyers for help to change the justice system. She wants people charged with crimes like the accused in her daughter's case to remain behind bars. 

"It's not suppose to be what it is right now, and I don't understand why us First Nations have to suffer." 


Originally from Obishikokaang (Lac Seul First Nation) located in northwestern Ontario, Martha Troian is an investigative journalist who frequently contributes to CBC News, including work on the multiple award-winning and ongoing Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls. Follow her @ozhibiiige