Council challenged on missing women forum attendance

Town council is questioned over their no show at the missing women inquiry in Smithers.

  • Nov. 8, 2011 5:00 p.m.

Between the sentences during Brenda Wilson’s presentation to Smithers town council at their regular meeting on Oct. 25, the council chambers were quiet enough that the only sound to be heard was the ticking of the clock. Some looked visibly uncomfortable, and one councillor was almost brought to tears; in the end, Wilson left with a promise that council would do their best to try to attend the next Ramona’s Walk, provided there was enough advance notice.

Wilson attended council to ask why nobody from the local municipal government had attended the missing women inquiry when commissioner Wally Oppal came to town in mid September, as well as Ramona’s Walk, held annually on June 11, the date of Ramona’s disappearance.

Wilson began her presentation by painting a picture of her family’s early life, when her, sister Ramona and their brothers grew up happily, despite not being the most advantaged family in town. When Ramona disappeared 17 years ago, Brenda said her family was hurt not only by the loss of one of their own, but by the seeming reluctance of the authorities to respond.

“We had a problem 17 years ago and we needed help. I always had to ask myself, why didn’t these people believe us? Why did we have to convince the town of Smithers that my sister was missing and that we needed help finding her?,” she asked.

Wilson also mentioned the frustration of seeing an unbalanced reaction to girls going missing from here, and from elsewhere in the province. Four years before Ramona’s disappearance, Delphine Nikal had also disappeared while hitchhiking from Smithers to Telkwa.

“These children were missing from Smithers, but nothing was done about it. No eyebrows were raised, there was no concern for these two girls. Yeah, they were from low income families, so they were considered not as important. But at the same time, when a young rich girl from Surrey was abducted, our community of Smithers jumped to the occasion, and put up a benefit dance for her, while at the same time our family was at the SuperValu mall, trying to raise money for a reward,” she said.

Wilson said she noticed that at both events this year, nobody from council was in attendance.

“I ask on behalf of the Wilson family and the other families that have missing or murdered loved ones, I want to ask the town council how we can work together to bring safety and awareness in our community of Smithers,” she said.

Several councillors responded to Wilson at the end of her presentation. Charlie Northrup pointed out that in the case of Oppal’s stop in Smithers, there was short notice on the date, he was away on holidays, and he had already attended 106 meetings this year.

“I understand that he has his agenda, but I also took offence that he criticized town councilors for not attending without any respect to the agenda and the time that we take,” said Northrup. “Sometimes when people like Mr. Oppal come through the community on their agenda and their timeline, we’re not always available, or we’re attending other meetings, and I think that has to be understood.”

Councillor Lorne Benson choked back tears as he spoke, saying he hoped much is gained from Oppal’s commission inquiry.

“The community’s fortunate that you’re here to speak to this issue,” he said. “It’s just a shameful thing that this is occuring.”

Mayor Cress Farrow pointed out that council needs more lead time to make sure someone can represent council at events. When asked by Wilson how much time is enough, he said two months is ideal, but at least a month. He also pointed out that officially corresponding with the town will get the event on the agenda at a council meeting.

After the Oct. 25 meeting, Farrow said the short notice on the inquiry’s Smithers date made it too late for anyone to attend, particularly because of a clash with a previously booked appearance at the Council of Forest Industries convention in Prince George.

“Unfortunately for council, we received notice at a very late date that Wally Oppal would be in town for the hearings, and a number of us had already been booked for several months to be out of town at an event that is also very important to our town. Had we known in time then we could have made arrangements so at least one or two representatives of council would have been happy to attend the hearing,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Smithers only taxi company closing down

BV Taxi parking its cars at the end of January

Coastal GasLink repeats desire for meeting with hereditary chiefs

Coastal GasLink says they’re ready to meet with the hereditary chiefs at their convenience

B.C. Green Party interim leader to visit Wet’suwet’en camps

MLA Adam Olsen stands behind First Nations

Bulkley Valley biathletes add to World Masters medal count

Callie Lancaster and Lèa-Marie Bowes-Lyon combine with Squamish’s Yvette Jackson for Relay bronze

Complaints filed against RCMP following two Gidimt’en members being turned away at police checkpoint

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association helped two individuals file the complaints

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Terrace woman found not criminally responsible in mother’s murder

RCMP were called to a townhouse on Scott Ave. on Aug. 2, 2018, following two stabbings

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Most Read