Where are Cowichan’s missing men?

Families of the local missing and murdered people are still waiting for answers

This is from our Cowichan Valley weekly newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Three Cowichan men have gone missing since 2007, never seen since. It’s an ugly fact that doesn’t fit well with the beauty of the place we call home. All three were Indigenous, members of Cowichan Tribes. All three had intellectual or mental health challenges. Desmond Peter disappeared at the age of 14 in 2007. Ian Henry was 26 when he was last seen in August 2015. Everett Jones, age 47, went missing half a year later.

Some have suggested the cases could be connected, that someone might be preying on vulnerable men. The RCMP have said they have no evidence to support that conclusion. The families are still searching.

On Feb. 9, local organizers will host the second annual walk for Missing and Murdered Men, Women and Children, to start from the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre. It will be a time for the community to come together in a show of strength, to say in one voice that we cannot lose more of our own, and we must work harder to find those who are still lost.

The organizers are still looking for volunteers and donations. If you can be available on the day of the march to help with traffic control, registration, or serving food, or if you are able to offer a monetary contribution, contact the organizers through their Facebook page.

Still searching for answers

Helen Joe’s sister Catherine was murdered in 1977, at the age of 27. The case remains unsolved.

Helen Joe was still a teenager when her older sister, Catherine Theresa Joe, went missing in 1977. “She went out one night in January, then she never came home,” she says. Her family searched for her for six months. “Every day we were getting phone calls, saying they had seen her here and there.” But the leads came to nothing. Eventually they got the news they had been dreading. A hiker had found human remains out past the hospital.

It was Helen’s mother who went to identify the body. Helen asked to go with her, but wasn’t permitted. She remembers her mom coming home, and she couldn’t stop crying. “Nothing I could do,” Helen says. Her mom passed away soon after, on Christmas Eve. Christmas is still a particularly hard time for the family.

Helen still misses her sister terribly. “She was a canoe puller, and she used to clam dig, and she used to go pick strawberries in the States, and then she’d come back home. She was a hard worker. She used to knit, too — Cowichan sweaters.” She left behind two young children, who were raised by the rest of the family. The crime has never been solved.

Helen, a member of Cowichan Tribes, is among the local organizers of the upcoming walk for Missing and Murdered Men, Women and Children. The three Cowichan men who have disappeared more recently are part of her extended family, too. She remembers her nephew Ian Henry, last seen in August 2015, always biking around town and saying hello to everyone.

Helen and her younger sister have been travelling across the province to tell their story and organize with the families of other missing and murdered people. “Me and my sister just hope something comes of this,” she says.

“We just want justice.”

Let’s gather

  • 🍫 Feb. 1: The Cowichan Climbing Academy is hosting its Choc and Chalk Citizen’s Comp, where climbers of all ages and levels can test their bouldering skills at École Mount Prevost school. The academy is run by a group of school teachers, so it’s not surprising they’re having fun with alliteration and homonyms; winners can expect prizes of chocolate bars and climbing chalk.

  • 🎬 Feb. 1: It’s movie night at Collective Space in Duncan, hosted by Hoovie. Check out the screening of How to Change the World, a documentary that traces the origins of Greenpeace and the modern environmental movement. Stay for a Q&A with Greenpeace senior campaigner Eduardo Sousa and a trivia contest, with prizes!

  • 🚴 Feb 2: Hit up Lakeview Park in Lake Cowichan for a day of trail maintenance work. Bring your own tools if you’ve got them; the campfire, hot dogs and camaraderie will be be provided.

  • 🚣 Vancouver Island has world-class rivers! Learn whitewater canoeing skills and river safety through certified instruction. Contact Rick Bryan at rickbryan@shaw.ca to join the community of paddlers.

News of the week

  • Cowichan Tribes has signed a letter of understanding with the provincial and federal governments on the delivery of child welfare services, My Cowichan Valley Now reports. The intention of the agreement is to give Cowichan Tribes more authority on child welfare, and to keep more Cowichan children within their community.

  • The Cowichan Valley Regional District has begun work on a trail next to the railway tracks in Shawnigan Lake, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. Some residents would like to see the trail follow the rail line instead, but the Island Corridor Foundation is still working on a plan to return rail service to the region.

  • Police raided the Leaf Compassion marijuana dispensary in Chemainus again this week, the Chemainus Valley Courier reports. Owner Kyle Cheyne says the store will not reopen until it has a licence from the province. Meanwhile, North Cowichan is working on an update to its bylaw on marijuana growing operations, and the CVRD says getting a licence to open a dispensary should be straightforward within areas zoned light-industrial, My Cowichan Valley Now reports.

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