Could you spend seven and a half years wondering where your daughter is?

For seven years Jennifer Catcheway’s family has been searching for their daughter. She went missing in June of 2008, on her 18th birthday. For families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, a national inquiry the new Liberal government has promised is welcome news.

RAW: Bernice Catcheway stands all alone in a marshy area on the Dakota Tipi First Nation

7 years ago
Duration 3:20
Bernice Catcheway shares both thanks and gratitude with volunteers who continue to help the family and search for Jennifer.

Jennifer Catcheway went missing in June 2008, on her 18th birthday.

Jennifer Leigh Catcheway (Manitoba Integrated Task Force)
Her parents, Bernice and Wilfred Catcheway have been searching for her ever since. Instead of going on summer vacations, they search bushes, marshes and open fields.

This summer was no different. But the family halted their search this week, when the snow started flying in Manitoba. To thank the many volunteers who spent time helping the family in their recent search of the Dakota Tipi First Nation, Bernice Catcheway posted a video on Facebook. 

"This is the saddest part of searching, going home empty-handed," she said. "But we did our best all summer long."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. ((John Woods/Canadian Press))
For families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, a national inquiry the new Liberal government has promised is welcome news.

"The more I listen to families, the more I understand they have many instincts and much knowledge about the way we go forward in order to get this right," said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

The inquiry is not going to fix this. The actions after the inquiry is going to be what can stop this epidemic and this terrible tragedy.- Carolyn Bennett

Hilda Anderson-Pyrz's sister, Dawn Anderson, died under mysterious circumstances. Anderson-Pyrz agreed that a national inquiry into the epidemic needs to happen. But she thinks we cannot wait until after the inquiry to start doing the work.

"We need action now, we need resources, we need services for our women and girls," Anderson-Pyrz said.

Anderson was 37 years old when she was found frozen to death not far from her front doorstep. Her death was ruled as exposure due to intoxication. But her older sister, Anderson-Pyrz, does not accept that ruling.

Dawn Anderson, left, was just 37 when she died. Her sister Hilda Anderson-Pyrz welcomes an inquiry for MMIW. (Submitted by Hilda Anderson-Pyrz)
She said there are too many unanswered questions from that night, like a report of screaming coming from Dawn's house the night she died. Her telephone was ripped off the wall and her TV was smashed. Nineteen hours after her death, the garage was set on fire. For Anderson-Pyrz, all of these things don't add up to an accidental death.

There are more than 1,200 official RCMP cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, and each woman's story is different.

Rinelle Harper's life changed forever one year ago. The shy teen was brutally assaulted and left for dead in Winnipeg's Assiniboine River. But she crawled out of the cold water and survived.

Recently, Harper shared her story of survival to hundreds of high school students at a We Day event in Winnipeg. We Day is a celebration of youth making a difference in their communities.

"We have to ask ourselves how we contribute to violence and and take responsibility to change our words and our thoughts," Harper said to an arena packed with students.

"It's not easy to speak up sometimes … but I've learned if you use your voice, others will join you," she said to tremendous applause from the audience.

"You will be surprised by the compassion of others and the power of many voices joining together," Harper said. "I didn't choose what happened to me, but I did make a choice to speak out against violence."