The Canadian Press
Animosity is brewing in Manitoba between a mother and father desperate for clues into the disappearance of their missing daughter, and a First Nations chief who says band members have grown tired of searchers digging holes on their reserve.
Bernice Catcheway, whose daughter, Jennifer, disappeared seven years ago, says she, her husband and other searchers are now barred from entering the Dakota Tipi reserve near Portage la Prairie after their latest search of the community’s dump and other areas last week.
The searchers brought a backhoe, and while they didn’t find any physical evidence, Catcheway says a resident gave them another tip.
“It’s important we go back there, but obviously we can’t,” said Catcheway, speaking from her home in Portage la Prairie.
“It is not a very big reserve but there (are) places we needed to get into and we still need to get into.”
It’s not the first time the searchers have been to Dakota Tipi, following up on a tip Catcheway may have gone to a party in the community before her disappearance.
Catcheway was 18 in June 2008 when she vanished from Grand Rapids while on her way to Portage la Prairie.
Chief David L. Pashe says his community initially welcomed the searchers when they first came to the reserve several years ago. He said they offered the visitors the use of their community centre and cooked food for them. In the following years, they donated money.
But Pashe says they’ve been digging holes, knocking down trees with their equipment and searching in places outside of the areas they said they’d be in, including near a cemetery.
He says they can come back, but if they do, they should bring the RCMP.
“I’d be the first one to grab a shovel if they had a good, credible witness. So I said the next time you come here, I want you to bring the RCMP and get the RCMP to give me a search warrant,” Pashe said Sunday.
RCMP Sgt. Bert Paquet said in an email that there was insufficient information to request a warrant to search the landfill or other areas where the searchers looked last week. He says police recommended the family ask for permission to search themselves, which they did and subsequently received.
“This case is actively investigated and has been since it was first reported to us. Outstanding tasks are being assigned and worked on as we speak. In the case of searches like this one, the family will often obtain consent to search or dig when we, the police, would not have enough grounds to obtain the required legal authorization to do so,” Paquet said in a statement released to media on Friday.
“Having said that, we do support any initiative that might potentially advance an investigation,” he adds, noting that police hope the renewed search and public attention will prompt people with information to come forward.
Catcheway says her family never went to police with the tip that led them to the dump. She said they followed it up themselves.
“I don’t where the police are at. I don’t know what they’re doing, but as far as my husband I are concerned and my children, we go in and wherever we can and do whatever we need to do,” Catcheway said.
Catcheway said the latest tipster has contacted police and she hopes to hear more soon. In the meantime, she believes Pashe will have a change of heart.
“Not everybody agrees with the chief banning us from there. We have a lot of supporters there, and throughout Canada,” she said.
Pashe says it’s a difficult situation.
“I sympathize. I’m sure if I had a son or daughter who disappeared, I’d search forever. But I said I have to look after 250 people,” he said.
Source: Bay Today