As they sorted through piles of mud and garbage, the family of a missing First Nations woman said they’re unsure whether they want to find their loved one’s remains in a Manitoba landfill.
“Who wants to find their daughter in a garbage dump?” said Bernice Catcheway, mother of Jennifer Catcheway, who disappeared on her 18th birthday in June 2008.
“Nobody wants that. But on the other hand, I’ll take her. I’ll take her wherever she is … If she’s here, we’ll find her.”
Using a donated backhoe and dozens of rakes, the Catcheways and a team of volunteers rifled through the garbage pits at the Dakota Tipi First Nation landfill, just down the road from their Manitoba home, on Thursday.
It’s the third dump the family has searched over the past seven years.
The decision to pick through the landfill, located about 90 kilometres west of Winnipeg, was made after someone reported that Jennifer had been seen at a house party on the reserve around the time of her disappearance.
Jennifer Catcheway is one of 164 indigenous women who have gone missing since 1980, according to RCMP figures, with 1,017 more women victims of homicide. Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has pledged to launch an inquiry into the cases.
Her disappearance is still “an active investigation,” the RCMP says.
The family shares information with the RCMP and notified police about their search at the dump. Police officials did not attend the landfill search, but instead released a written statement: “We always support any initiative that might help the case move forward. This is no different than any other independent search.”
The search has drawn together local volunteers who hope to help put an end to Jennifer’s mysterious disappearance. But what the First Nations community really wants, one local says, is the truth.
“There are people out here that do know what happened. I wish those people would come forward and bring closure to this,” said Carl Taylor, a local resident.
Asked when she would be prepared to stop looking for her daughter, Bernice Catcheway shifted her gaze toward the sky.
“Never, never,” she said, holding back tears.
With files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon and CTV Winnipeg