Tag Archives: Bear Clan Patrol

Family, Friends of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace Continue Push For Inquest A Year After Her Death

Family, friends and community members walked through Kenora in memory of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace on Monday, April 17, which marked a year since the 14-year-old Grassy Narrows First Nation teenager’s body was found across the street from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital after a two-day search. The Winnipeg-based community group Urban Warrior Alliance and members of the Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol marched in support. Kathleen Charlebois/Daily Miner and News

By Kathleen Charlebois | Miner and News, April 18, 2017

Braeden Kokopenace held up a picture of his twin sister emblazoned with the words “We will not forget” and “#Justice4Azraya” for all to see during a march in her memory.

He and Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace’s family, friends and community members from Grassy Narrows First Nation walked from Knox United Church to the wooded site across from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital where Azraya’s body was found after a two-day search a year ago on April 17. She disappeared from the hospital after police brought her there.  Friends, family and provincial representatives continue to press for inquest into her death.

Braeden said Azraya was “a sweet girl” who he loved and cared for. “I want justice for my sister,” he said during a press conference at the vigil. “She didn’t deserve to be treated like that by police.”

He referred to a video that showed a Kenora OPP officer in an altercation with Azraya a few weeks before her death, and he said he believes the incident impacted her badly. “I think it put fear into our community,” he said.

Braeden also said both youth and elders have been mourning for her in the year since her death. “Justice for my sister would mean answers about what happened to her and improving the system so less suicides take place,” he said.

Azraya’s aunt Lorenda Kokopenace said her niece’s death has been difficult to bear and the system “really failed all of them.”

She said she feels like the Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, who had Azraya in their custody, is another kind of residential school system.

“That stuff needs to stop, and we need to all work together and quit sending our kids away,” Lorenda said. “She wanted to come home and they ignored that.”
Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, said he has written in the past to the regional supervising coroner, Dr. Michael Wilson, to ask for an inquest.

Wilson said last October that the involvement of Child Protective Services adds “additional elements” to his investigation and requires more time, although Kenora Rainy-River MPP Sarah Campbell and Azraya’s family say an inquest is legally required as Azraya was in police custody when she died.

“A coroner’s inquest will investigate and explain circumstances around Azraya’s death and will provide us with the first step that we need to go forward so we can prevent the further loss of Indigenous youth,” Campbell said.

After walking through Kenora, marchers visited the memorial site across from the hospital, where they lit candles and put down tobacco.

Azraya’s friend Kyra Fobister shared that she often visits her friend’s grave in her home community and talks and plays songs they both like.

“We as a whole deserve to know the truth,” she said. “It may not bring her back but it’s our only way to cope with everyday life without her.”


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Cooper Nemeth’s Dad Addresses ‘Heartbreaking’ Letter From Winnipeg Teen

Brent Nemeth talks about the emotions he felt after reading Brianna Jonnie's letter

Brent Nemeth talks about the emotions he felt after reading Brianna Jonnie’s letter

CBC News, Posted: Mar 07, 2016

‘Shout from the rooftops and ends of the earth,’ letter in Cooper’s voice says

The dad of slain Winnipeg teen Cooper Nemeth says a heartbreaking and what he calls damaging letter from teen Brianna Jonnie prompted him to write a response — from himself and from Cooper.

“I was saddened when I first read it. It was heartbreaking to read,” said Brent Nemeth, Cooper Nemeth’s father.

“I was also saddened for the police department. It hurt my feelings. It was very emotional to read that so soon after Cooper’s disappearance and then being found that someone would think so unworthy of themselves over race.”

Jonnie, a 14-year-old indigenous girl, addressed her letter to police Chief Devon Clunis, a number of government officials and members of local media. In it, she says there is a discrepancy in how cases of missing indigenous girls are treated in comparison to others, such as Cooper or Thelma Krull.

Brent Nemeth said he wrote the response because he’s sad for Jonnie but is also concerned “a letter such as this takes us five steps back” in bridging relations with the First Nations community.

He lauded the Bear Clan patrol for its search efforts when Cooper was missing, saying the primarily indigenous group never stopped “for one second to think of race or colour or gender.

“They saw a need and felt the anguish and moved right in to do whatever they could to help as human beings,” he said in a part of the letter written in his own voice.

The Nemeth family later held a dinner to honour the Bear Clan and honour the bond with the First Nations community.

Jonnie’s letter, instead, encourages another generation to believe in a racist way of thinking, Nemeth said.

“It breaks my heart to believe that any child believes I see them as anything more or less than a child who deserves love every moment of their entire lives and who needs to be found when they are lost,” he wrote.

Jonnie describes herself as an honour roll student, volunteer, coach and dancer who is being raised by a loving mother. Though she is not involved in drugs, alcohol, prostitution or other illegal activity, nor a runaway, she says she is more likely to go missing than her peers simply because she is indigenous.

If that were to ever happen, Jonnie urges Clunis and the media to humanize her, not treat her “like another one of them ran away.”

"And if I do go missing and my body is found, please tell my mom you are sorry. Tell her I asked to be buried in my red dress, for I will have become just another native statistic," Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote in a letter to Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. (CBC)

“And if I do go missing and my body is found, please tell my mom you are sorry. Tell her I asked to be buried in my red dress, for I will have become just another native statistic,” Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote in a letter to Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. (CBC)

“The colour of one’s skin, their socio-economic status, or whom their legal guardian is should not determine the level of assistance they receive in finding them if they are missing, and yet, it does,” she wrote, adding examples of indigenous girls who went missing and the gap between when they disappeared and when the police issued a public notice.

In comparison, Cooper had his image in the paper the next day and Krull was in online reports less than 24 hours after her disappearance, Jonnie said.

Making gains

James Favel, an organizer with the Bear Clan Patrol, said he is driven to work toward “a new normal” in terms of community responses to missing persons.

“We have made some real gains and I don’t want to see it be lost,” Favel said, adding “you can’t take away from [Jonnie’s] reality.

“I wouldn’t malign her for how she feels. I know that there’s many women in my community that have the same feeling.”

Still, while Favel acknowledges Jonnie’s concerns are valid, he added that negativity surrounding the issue isn’t productive either.

“Delaine Copenace went missing last Friday. We’ve been searching; the media has been all over it. I think coverage has been equal in that respect.”

Brent Nemeth said the family was actively doing everything they could to help find Cooper.

“We used the media to our advantage, we used social media to our advantage,” he said.

“We didn’t sit at home and just file a missing police report. I was constantly on the police, updating every 15 minutes as soon as I made the report. Cooper’s friends texting, tweeting; my sister coming in and putting her keys down on the table and four coffees and saying, ‘We’re going to find him.'”

He said he is saddened that Jonnie believes her worth is based on gender and race, but felt she was off the mark when it comes to who spearheads the searching.

Cooper Nemeth went missing after leaving a house party in East Kildonan on Feb. 14. His body was found Feb. 20 behind a house in the same neighbourhood. (Supplied)

Cooper Nemeth went missing after leaving a house party in East Kildonan on Feb. 14. His body was found Feb. 20 behind a house in the same neighbourhood. (Supplied)

They are “fuelled by families and communities and police can only do the job they are enlisted to do. And it is the same for everyone,” he said, noting Cooper’s family, friends and the community overall “found the leads … the tips … and the feet on the street to rattle the earth.

“It wasn’t 1,500 police officers out there.”

Instead of writing to the police, government and media, Jonnie should have addressed her letter to her parents, Nemeth said.

The following is from Nemeth’s letter, written in the voice of Cooper:

“If I go missing … please please please recognize quickly that this is something completely out of the norm for me and don’t ever let me become another statistic. Handle me missing with the same care and love that you handle me with every single day of my life. Know that the times that I am acting out as a 17-year-old boy and we are struggling through some moments in our house have nothing to do with where I am now.

“Don’t wait for the police to look for me. They will do what they can and what they are allotted to do for every single missing person case there is. They will issue a statement and follow leads but it is up to you Mom and Dad to help find those leads for them and rally every single person you can to help find me. The police can’t do that for us … or anyone else.

“Shout from the rooftops and ends of the earth and call out to everyone you know to join you. Please Mom and Dad … even when you hear things that will make you think I have gone farther off the path you have laid out for me … don’t give up.

“I am just being a 17-year-old kid … trying things that most of us try … but in the big scheme of things, this moment doesn’t define who I am and who you have taught me to be. I may have hid a few things from you because that’s what we do as teenagers.… We are chameleons to our parents.

“Don’t let anything stop you Mom and Dad. When it comes down to it … only you and your strength and your love and your belief in me can bring me home.”

Brent Nemeth’s letter, in the voice of his late 17-year-old son Cooper Nemeth


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Brent Nemeth’s letter, in the voice of his late 17-year-old son Cooper Nemeth (PDF KB)
Brent Nemeth’s letter, in the voice of his late 17-year-old son Cooper Nemeth (Text KB)


Search For Kenora Girl Expands To Winnipeg With Help From Bear Clan

Winnipeg's Bear Clan Patrol put up posters in the North End on Thursday night. The missing 16-year-old lived in Kenora but was known to visit friends and family in Winnipeg. (CBC/Justin Fraser)

Winnipeg’s Bear Clan Patrol put up posters in the North End on Thursday night. The missing 16-year-old lived in Kenora but was known to visit friends and family in Winnipeg. (CBC/Justin Fraser)

By Laura Glowacki, CBC News Posted: Mar 03, 2016

Delaine Copenace, 16, was last seen on Saturday around 6 p.m. in Kenora

The search for missing Kenora teenager, Delaine Copenace, has expanded to Winnipeg.

The 16-year-old was last seen Saturday around 6 p.m. in downtown Kenora. Since the weekend, the search for Copenace had concentrated in the small Ontario city and outlying areas, including Lake of the Woods.

On Thursday evening members of the Bear Clan Patrol brought the search to Winnipeg after being approached by Copenace’s cousin Anthony Copenace and friend Aaron Paul on Facebook.

“I knew the best plan of action was to reach out to Bear Clan,” said Paul.

The Copenace family are very concerned for her wellbeing, said Paul. The teen has never gone missing before and has never run away. Her mother, Anida Fisher, describes Copenace as a “homebody.”

“She’s more reserved … more of a quieter, gentler soul,” said cousin Anthony Copenace, who lives in Winnipeg and helped with the search on Friday.


Delaine Copenace’s cousin Anthony Copenace said it’s very unusual for her to go missing. He described the Kenora 16-year-old as quiet and gentle. (CBC/Justin Fraser)

Bear Clan volunteers focused the search in Winnipeg’s North End near Selkirk Avenue, an area Copenace was known to visit when she was in town.

Organizer Justin Brown said everyone has a responsibility to keep an eye out when a young person is missing.

“I think the community effort is very important,” he said. “The effort for example that we made with Cooper [Nemeth] was incredible.”

First Nations communities have raised $8,000 for anyone with information about Copenace’s whereabouts.

Copenace is described by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as having a larger build, with brown eyes and long black hair. She was last seen wearing black boots, a black jacket, a “Bullet for my Valentine” T-shirt and black jeans with zippered pockets.

Police are asking anyone with information to call Kenora OPP at 1-888-310-1122.




Cooper Nemeth’s Family Holds Dinner For Bear Clan

Members of the Nemeth family stand with members of the Bear Clan, a North End street patrol that helped search for Cooper Nemeth. The 17-year-old was missing for about a week before his body was found in a trash bin on Feb. 20. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Members of the Nemeth family stand with members of the Bear Clan, a North End street patrol that helped search for Cooper Nemeth. The 17-year-old was missing for about a week before his body was found in a trash bin on Feb. 20. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

CBC News, Posted: Feb 26, 2016

Volunteer street patrol group searched day and night for teen, held ceremony once he was found

Cooper Nemeth’s family prepared a feast Friday night to thank the Bear Clan, a patrol group that helped search for the 17 year old, then held a smudging ceremony in his honour after his body was found last week.

The Bear Clan showed up at the Gateway Recreation Centre last week without even being asked, Nemeth’s family said.

“We did what we did because it was the right thing to do for us here, so we can sleep at night,” Bear Clan member James Favel said.

“It had a real benefit for their family as well and our community and our city at large.”

Like hundreds of other volunteers, the group spent countless hours searching for the teen.

“We’re non-indigenous. They’re indigenous. It’s pretty rare that those communities from both sides reach out to each other,” said Laresa Sayles, Nemeth’s aunt.

Bear Clan

Members of the Bear Clan held a smudge and drum ceremony for Cooper Nemeth, his family and the community Monday night (Bear Clan/Facebook)

“These people came with open and loving arms to us and wanted to help, and they went to the scariest and toughest places in the city and searched for Cooper. To me, that shows you they are true and genuine salt of the earth.”

Bear Clan co-founder Larry Morrissette echoed Sayles words, lauding community members who came together in search of Nemeth.

“I grew up around here. It’s a really good thing to see these barriers coming down and people starting to accept one another,” Morrissette said. “I think what’s gone on has been really tragic but really positive at the same time.”

Members of Nemeth’s family spent the day cooking turkey, lasagna, wings, asparagus and apple crisp. They also used a lot of the donated food they received during Nemeth’s search for the big meal.

The Nemeth family brought the dinner to the the Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre, where they ate with members of the Bear Clan.

“We are just wanting to give back to them. I know food is just such a small thing but for us, it brings a lot of comfort,” said Sayles. “It brings people together.”

Sayles added it’s a way to focus on the positive, and keep momentum going on bridging Winnipeg’s communities.

“Everything they’ve said to us, even during the smudge and drum ceremony, was so sincere and loving. Brent and Gaylene, Cooper’s parents, finally slept after the drum ceremony and smudge. There was so much peace.”

James Favel

James Favel attends a smudging ceremony for slain teen Cooper Nemeth. (CBC)

Sayles said she’s also grateful to Winnipeg police and the community for their help in the search. But the Bear Clan isn’t paid for what they do, she said, and they didn’t even know Nemeth or his family before coming out to help.

“The Bear Clan doesn’t get any funding, and it’s just a small token of saying thank you to them. It’s so minimal compared to what we want to do to help them, but it’s a start,” she said.

“These are the kind of people and this is the kind of organization that this city really needs right now.”

Sayles said it will be a long road to recovery for her and her family, but she takes comfort in the fact that some good has come from Nemeth’s death.

“We hope others in Winnipeg will reach out to them as well, because this is the start of something big and something wonderful. And it’s going to bring a lot of change to this city and the safety of our children, our indigenous women, anyone that’s gone missing.”

About 40 Bear Clan members went out on their normal Friday rounds through the North End following the dinner.

Meet Me at the Bell Tower honoured the Bear Clan after the dinner. Organizers with the North End anti-violence weekly meetup presented Favel with a wooden box with an eagle on it for the work his group does to prevent violence.

Nemeth’s family held a wreath for Cooper, smudged with the group and rang the bell at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Powers Street after the short service.


Hundreds Attend Indigenous Smudging Ceremony For Cooper Nemeth


Indigenous drum circle at a smudging ceremony for Cooper Nemeth on Monday night. (Photo: Red Power Media)

By Red Power Media, Staff

Winnipeg— An estimated 1,000 people gathered at an Indigenous smudging ceremony for Cooper Nemeth on Monday night.

The seventeen-year-old’s body was found in North Kildonan almost a week after he disappeared from a party in the same area.

The Winnipeg Police Service said he was murdered.

Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder on Sunday.

Cooper Nemeth

Friends and teammates gather to honor of Cooper Nemeth on Monday night. (Photo Red Power Media)

The tragedy of Cooper’s death brought family, friends, teammates and members of the indigenous community together to remember the young hockey player at Gateway Recreation Centre.

According to CBC News, the event was organized by James Favel and indigenous elder and educator, Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan Patrol, a neighbourhood watch group that monitors North End streets.

“The smudge … is a way of cleaning yourself and sending your own thoughts and prayers and your belief towards Cooper,” said Morrissette.

“We just did a smudge ceremony to help send young Cooper’s soul, spirit home,” Favel said, adding he wasn’t surprised to see so many people attend the ceremony.

When Cooper went missing last week, Bear Clan helped look for him.

James Favel and indigenous elder and educator, Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan. (Photo Red Power Media)

James Favel and Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan Patrol. (Photo Red Power Media)

Cooper’s mother, father and young sister attended the event. His father, Brent Nemeth, thanked the community for their support.

“In Cooper’s last days, he united the city, province, and humanity in all of us,” said Nemeth.

Cooper’s aunt Laresa Sayles said the community support her family has received restored her faith in Winnipeg.

“I’m hoping that people remember why we live here, and that we are probably the strongest community in the world,” said Sayles.

Both Sayles and Nemeth said Cooper would have loved the ceremony.

The family of Cooper also released a statement to media following the smudging ceremony in honor of their son.

Public Statement:

“In Cooper’s last days he united a city, a province, and the humanity in all. He became not only our son, brother, nephew, grandson and great grandson, but yours as well. Regardless of status, race, or upbringing all of you came out to find our boy. We cried, hoped and prayed as one, as it should be. Thank you.”

Our entire family is in awe of the love you all showed for our boy. He has now become Winnipeg’s boy. Thousands of you gave your time, your effort, your resources and all you had to bring Cooper home.

Now you are all supporting us again with your outpouring of condolences, well wishes, and offers of help in our time of sorrow. Thank you.

[Read Full Statement Here]