Every Missing Person Deserves a Search and Rescue Team

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I remember one night on my own street corner, waiting for a trick (john, punter) and thinking no one would know if I went missing, except for my kids. Actually, I KNEW no one would come looking for me, because no one was looking for my friends who then later would be found murdered on a pig farm.

By Trisha Baptie

My Facebook news feed has been a constant stream of two things this past week: one is of a white, 30-something, tall (very tall, actually) man with size 16 feet named Tyler who went out hiking two weeks ago and has not been seen nor heard from since. Tyler is great. We have many friends in common; he’s a pro hiker and I hope and believe he will be found soon.

The other stream is that in the last two weeks the courts denied Vancouver’s serial killer his appeal. The courts said he was rightfully convicted of killing six women, charged and presumed guilty of another 20. The Vancouver Police Department then released a report that stated, essentially, on every level they mismanaged the handling of that case, and that there are many other missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

This is a tough issue to tackle, it’s an uncomfortable one but, for me, the dichotomy of these two cases is inescapable.

Missing Sisters

Truth be told there are hundreds of missing–mostly aboriginal–women all across Canada. What is different in these two stories is that there is no expense being spared for Tyler. In fact, there are fundraisers being held in the search for Tyler, yet no one is pulling out all the stops to find my sisters. In the words of Laura Holland, a member of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN): “My sisters, my perfect sisters were not considered perfect enough victims and witnesses for the Vancouver prosecutors and police.” And therein lies the problem. Understand this is a hard topic to tackle. Understand I want Tyler found. I pray he is safe. I want helicopters, infrared cameras, rescue teams and everything that can be used, to find him.

My question, though, is why society is not doing it for the women missing across this country? Why in the name of “unstable lifestyle” “addiction issues” “homeless” and “prostituted women” do we get to abandon them? Why is their marginalization by society the very excuse we use not to pursue them with all our heart. With God’s own heart? Didn’t he seek out the one sheep that got away from the flock? Isn’t Jesus’ take-home message Love the least of these?

Invisible

If you look at these women’s lives (and my own), you will see a history of foster care, abuse, neglect, racism, as well as lack of opportunity and economic security for themselves and their parents. The list goes one. Doesn’t that lack of livelihood in youth require of us to scour the country looking for them, showing them they are loved? The issues are big, they go back far into history and will require a concerted effort from us to change them. The least we can do is pull out all the stops to find them. To find my friends.

The answer, the painful truth is because of gender, race, socio-economic status, addiction and extreme marginalization, society has decided who we will throw our resources at and who we won’t.

I know intimately that feeling of invisibility. I remember one night on my own street corner, waiting for a trick (john, punter) and thinking no one would know if I went missing, except for my kids. Actually, I KNEW no one would come looking for me, because no one was looking for my friends who then later would be found murdered on a pig farm. My prayer in life is for no women ever to feel that invisible again.

Every missing person deserves a search and rescue team.

About Trisha:

Trisha is Executive Director of Honour Consulting and founding member of EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating). In 2008 she also won BC’s The Courage to Come Back Award for her bravery in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, giving the murdered women of Vancouver a voice through her trial coverage of the serial killer and for her ongoing activism. Follow Trisha’s tweets at @trisha_baptie or friend her on facebook.

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