A local organization is working towards hosting a national conference in the Cowichan area in 2024 to develop strategies and plans to deal with the issue of missing and murdered women, men and children in Canada.
Speaking at the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 13, a delegation from the Cowichan Missing and Murdered Women, Men and Children Society said the idea for the conference is to bring all the First Nations chiefs, community members, RCMP and all the various groups and societies who have been dealing with the issue under one roof to help develop strategies and solutions.
Monica Patsy Jones, the society’s executive director and founder, said she started the society after her sister was brutally murdered in 1977, which is still an unsolved cold case.
RELATED STORY: COWICHAN VALLEY TO MARK NATIONAL DAY OF AWARENESS
She said after that, her grand nephew Desmond Peter went missing in 2007, followed by Ian Henry in 2015 and Everett Jones in 2016, among many others.
“We’ve had many unsolved murders in Cowichan involving Indigenous people, including the double homicide on Christmas Eve a few years ago,” Jones said.
“The RCMP haven’t given us any updates so we’re advocating for that also.”
Jones said she has been lobbying senior levels of government for more than 30 years to access funding for her society’s work, but has been unsuccessful to date.
“There’s no help out there for people searching for their loved ones,” she said.
“I’ve gone up and down Vancouver Island talking to all the chiefs and presented what we’re doing [in organizing the conference in 2024] to bring all the chiefs and other organizations under one roof.”
Society director Dale Kelly said the organization is dismayed by the lack of support from senior levels of government.
“So, instead of chasing money at higher levels of government, we have decided to return to the community to seek support and focus on bringing local leadership together in a grassroots movement toward lasting change,” she said.
Troy Elliott, another society director, said the society is hosting a fundraiser, called Lifting Spirits, Honouring Lives Gala and a silent auction on Nov. 18 to raise money to host the conference at Mellor Hall in Exhibition Park.
He said the society has managed to raise approximately $16,000 to host the fundraiser for the conference so far, and is hoping to raise a total of $25,000 for the event, which will include dinner (at approximately $100 per plate), dance performances and the silent auction.
“We’re looking for contributions,” he said
The committee unanimously voted for staff to write a report on how the CVRD can proceed with the funding request.
Committee chair Ian Morrison said the district is aware of the issues around missing and murdered Indigenous people.
“But your passion and sincerity in which you come forward and share with us is very much appreciated by all around this table and staff,” he said.