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Secwépemc law presented in court, but judge says B.C.’s rules ‘reflect the public’s view’



Red Deer Billie Pierre of Nlaka’pamux Nation, left, and Secwépemc Matriarch April Thomas outside of the Kamloops Law Courts building in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops) on May 2, following the second day of their sentencing hearing. Photo by Aaron Hemens

During a sentencing for two Indigenous land defenders, a B.C. Supreme Court judge described the women’s lifelong obligation to protect their territories as a belief system not “materially different than the beliefs or views of most other Canadians.”

On May 19 at a courthouse in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops) in Secwepemcúl’ecw, Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick sentenced Secwépemc Matriarch April Thomas to 32 days in jail and Red Deer Billie Pierre of Nlaka’pamux Nation to 40 days of house arrest.

Prior to her decision, Fitzpatrick heard evidence from Secwépemc knowledge-keepers about the nation’s ancestral laws, ceremonies and generational connections to the land and water.

However, in the end, she grouped together Indigenous land stewardship with “Canadian” environmentalism and boiled the decision to oppose the pipeline down to a personal choice.

“In B.C., there are laws and a regulatory scheme — both federal and provincial — that reflect the public’s view: the protection of the environment, our lands and waters, is important to our society generally, which includes both our Indigenous citizens and non-Indigenous citizens,” said Fitzpatrick.

“Even accepting that Indigenous people generally have a duty and obligation to protect the land and water, that does not mean that they have a duty to oppose Trans Mountain’s pipeline.”

‘I acted in the heat of the moment’

Between Oct. 15 and 17, 2020, Thomas, Pierre and six other Indigenous and non-Indigenous land defenders were arrested and later charged with criminal contempt for disrupting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project’s (TMX) development in Secwepemcúl’ecw. All eight have been sentenced by Fitzpatrick, with six sentences handed out in February. 

Thomas and Pierre were arrested on Oct. 15, following a water ceremony by Secwépemcetkwe (the Thompson River) in Sqeq’petsin (Mission Flats area) that escalated into people breaching the nearby TMX injunction-protected construction area.

Secwépemc Matriarch April Thomas, left, and Red Deer Billie Pierre of Nlaka’pamux Nation conduct a livestream outside of the Kamloops Law Courts building in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops) on May 1, ahead of the first day of their sentencing hearing. Photo by Aaron Hemens

During this month’s sentencing, Crown counsel Trevor Shaw — who replaced Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg in this latest hearing — told the court that Pierre had zap-strapped herself to a TMX bulldozer and refused to leave, leading to four police officers carrying her from the area. 

The court also heard that Thomas had climbed atop the bulldozer that Pierre was zap-strapped to, which she said was done to protect Pierre from a TMX worker who allegedly started the machine while she was still attached to it. After that, the court heard, Thomas went on top of an excavator in an attempt to take a selfie.

“Maybe I acted in the heat of the moment,” Thomas said in her submissions to the court, calling the selfie attempt “a stupid mistake.” 

Four of the land defenders, including Thomas, have now been released on bail and are now pending the hearing of their appeals against their convictions and sentences.

Initially, the sentencing hearing for Thomas and Pierre was scheduled for February, but it was adjourned to May as the two awaited the completion of Gladue reports, which are pre-sentencing reports that detail the lived experiences of an Indigenous person, and are to be taken into consideration when being sentenced by a judge.

During the sentencing hearing between May 1 and 3, the court heard details from each of Thomas’s and Pierre’s Gladue reports — which included the ongoing impacts of colonialism, the effects of the residential “school” system on their families and upbringing, a loss of connection to their communities, cycles of abuse and experiences in the foster care system.

Their Gladue reports had also included references to an academic article by Graham Mayeda, which argues that injunctions and contempt of court proceedings are not appropriate in the context of Indigenous law. 

Shaw took issue with the article, saying that it doesn’t assist the court in determining an appropriate punishment to impose. The defence counsel — which consisted of Benjamin Isitt representing Thomas and Rachel Smith representing Pierre — submitted an adjournment application, in order for Thomas and Pierre to have more time to gather witnesses to support their claim that they were fulfilling their duty to Indigenous law and to the land on their offence date. 

The application was denied by Fitzpatrick. As a result, Secwépemc knowledge-keepers Miranda Dick and Mike McKenzie were called in on May 1 and 2, respectively, as last-minute witnesses to speak to Secwépemc laws, duties, decision-making structures, ceremonies and the obligation to protect the land.

‘We have to speak for our salmon’

As a Secwépemc matriarch with more than 20 years of experience carrying out ceremonies in her homelands, Dick detailed the nation’s matrilineal hereditary structure, as well as the role of ceremonies and the obligations of matriarchs around caring for their families, communities and the nation.

It’s at sacred fire ceremonies where Dick said that Elders provide testimonies on water and usage, and where Youth speak on what their duties are to land issues pertaining to protection.

“A sacred fire consists of setting tobacco, meaning setting intention,” she explained. “Whether that be any outcome from setting a sacred fire, that is then your duty. That becomes your obligation to the land, water and the watershed areas as well.”

Secwépemc Matriarchs Miranda Dick and April Thomas, alongside Secwépemc Hereditary Chief Saw-ses, sing a drum song outside of the Kamloops Law Courts building in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops) on May 1, ahead of the first day of Thomas’s and Red Deer Billie Pierre’s sentencing hearing on May 1. Photo by Aaron Hemens

She noted that for many Secwépemc people, they go through a ceremony that binds them to speaking and caring for their salmon relatives.

“Since our salmon cannot speak, we have to speak for our salmon,” she said. “Meaning that if they’re in harm, we will voice them if there is harm. We will voice concern, and from there, you make your best judgement on that.” 

With matriarchs being bound by an obligation to the matrilineal hereditary structure, Dick said that it would be difficult for Thomas to make decisions for herself when responding to B.C. laws in accordance with Secwépemc law, for which decisions are typically made in consultation with the heads of the family.

“It’s almost like a freeze or flight moment where you make your own decision based on duty, obligation, as well as your role to the land and being a woman, making your own decision based off of that,” said Dick.

In her submissions, Thomas said that she had no remorse for her actions on her offence date. 

“I’m only doing what I was taught, what I grew up knowing. And that is to protect the land,” she said.

‘A responsibility that we have above all else’ 

While the oral evidence provided by Dick was deemed admissible in the court, both Shaw and Fitzpatrick did not consider it to be expert evidence due to concerns around objectivity and impartiality. 

Dick herself was one of eight land defenders to have been sentenced by Fitzpatrick, who described the decision by the defence counsel to call her as a witness “an interesting, if not odd, choice.”

Secwépemc land defenders have meanwhile called into question the court’s apparent protection of corporate interests and what they’ve previously called “blatant bias against Indigenous communities and in favour of TMX pipeline’s illegal encroachment on Indigenous territories.”

Secwépemc territories were never given up by its original inhabitants, but colonized by “British Columbia” and “Canada.” Canada now owns the Trans Mountain pipeline and the B.C. Supreme Court operates under provincial law. 

In his witness testimony, McKenzie — who has been a board member and Youth representative with the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council (SNTC) — said that he was raised by knowledge keepers for his entire life, and worked closely with SNTC’s Elders’ Council. 

“The Elders’ Council have never changed their position against this pipeline. They’ve always been against it,” said McKenzie. 

“They’ve actually tasked our people to stand up to it in all ways possible — whether it’s the courts, legal, to bring lawsuits — whatever way possible really to stand against the project.”

He shared one of the words for stewardship — yecminme7 — which he explained means from birth, you are taught how to become a caretaker of the land. 

“It speaks to a responsibility that we have above all else to take care of the land, and how we fit in our laws,” he said.

He presented the court with the Save the Fraser Declaration from 2010, a document that was signed in Secwépemc and Coast Salish territories by more than 40 Indigenous nations in the Fraser River Watershed.

The Save The Fraser Declaration from 2010, which was signed by by more than 40 Indigenous nations in the Fraser River Watershed. (Source: via KAIROS Canada)

While the declaration was designed to defend the lands and waters from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines project, McKenzie said that consideration was given to whether that pipeline could shift to a new name in the future.

“We were concerned that because the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline could become another pipeline, leadership was tasked to ensure that all pipelines across these waters were included in this declaration,” said McKenzie.

‘I followed in my own ancestors’ footsteps’

Following the testimonies provided by Dick and McKenzie, defence lawyer Smith said that the evidence detailing an Indigenous person’s duty to the land is relevant to sentencing, and should be considered.

“How is that materially different from a person who’s born and bred environmentalist, who’s considered it their moral duty to do what they can to protect the land?” asked Fitzpatrick.

When Smith referenced the lengthy-history of an Indigenous person’s connection to the land, Fitzpatrick noted that she was “pretty sure” that her ancestors in Ireland, who were potato farmers, were connected to the land, too.

“There’s a spectrum of the past history of what connects an individual to the land and to their nation. It’s something that can’t be simply equated to a passion for environmentalism,” Smith replied. 

“I submit that it goes beyond any interest in a specific cause, and it becomes a part of an identity of an individual. These laws are a part of them, part of their community, part of their history and families.”

In her submissions, Pierre outlined the Nlaka’pamux Nation’s historical alliances with the Secwépemc people, referencing the 1858 Fraser Canyon War and the 1910 Memorial to Sir Wilfred Laurier.

“Anything I’ve done here, I followed in my own ancestors’ footsteps,” said Pierre. “I worked with people who my ancestors worked with their ancestors.”

‘Realize you too are connected to this land’

While acknowledging that she sometimes acts in the heat of the moment, Thomas said in her submissions that her actions follow what she believes is right, and is guided by the teachings of her Elders, her grandparents who raised her, and her ancestors.

“I don’t think you realize how much it hurts to see your land being destroyed and destructed right before your eyes,” she said. 

She highlighted that the same waterways that she grew up swimming in and harvesting from, now give her kids infections when swimming in them, and that their water levels have been depleted down to almost nothing.

“Those things scare me. They scare me, for my kids and my grandkids and the next seven generations to come because seven generations ago, we had it all. Now, our people have nothing,” she said.

“We can’t even make a decision on our own territory without that being impeded by this court system.”

While considering Gladue factors and the belief systems held by Thomas and Pierre, Fitzpatrick, in her decision, said illegally breaching the injunction zone is one’s own personal choice.

“At its core, the contenders’ position in this hearing that their Indigenous beliefs for the land and water means they have a lesser moral culpability, is a conflation of their broad view and obligation to protect the lands and waters with their personal choice, that they interpret that belief or obligation as a requirement to oppose Trans Mountain’s pipeline, and to do so illegally,” said Fitzpatrick.

In her submissions, Thomas addressed Fitzpatrick and said that protecting the land, the water and the salmon is more than just putting bodies on the line. Protection, she continued, means ceremonies, songs, dancing, smudging and prayer.

“Everything we do and pray, we do it for all people,” said Thomas. 

“I’ve even said many prayers for you, Judge FItzpatrick, that you find it in your heart and that you find your spirit, and realize that you too are connected to this land — we all are.”

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‘They invented them or what?’: Parksville councillor under fire for comment about Indigenous plants




Parksville Coun. Adam Fras, as pictured on the City of Parksville website.

Community members are raising concerns over a City of Parksville councillor’s “unacceptable” Facebook comment which appears to mock the recognition of Indigenous plants.

An account belonging to Councillor Adam Fras made the remark on May 17 in response to a CHEK News story about a local Indigenous plant. The story featured the lək̓ʷəŋən name for the plant that most English speakers know as camas. 

In the article, a Songhees expert shares cultural knowledge about the nutritional benefits and history of kwetlal, as it is known in lək̓ʷəŋən. kwetlal blooms with purple flowers and has been farmed and harvested by Songhees people for thousands of years. 

In the comment section under the Facebook post, one reader wrote: “Thank you, I’m looking forward to learning the Indigenous names for plants and trees. After all, these are Indigenous plants and trees.”

In response to this comment, Fras replied: “Indigenous plants and trees? They invented them or what?” 

The comment upset Jessica Linford, who was scrolling through Facebook when she happened upon the story and his reply.

“For me, I wouldn’t want an elected official saying anything that could be construed as dismissive of a community that they might represent,” she told IndigiNews.

IndigiNews reached out by email and phone to Fras to ask him about the comment and about his response to community concerns but did not receive a response.

A screenshot of the comment made by Coun. Adam Fras.

Linford brought the comment to the attention of her friend Cindy Robinson, a local resident and member of the Kitasoo / Xai’xais First Nation.

Robinson said that the comment was especially upsetting because recognizing Indigenous knowledge has been highlighted as a priority in response to efforts such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“And those remarks are very harsh and unacceptable for someone in his type of leadership role,” she said, adding that all of these incidents build up to break trust.

“One little incident such as that it just kind of sets us back and you know, makes me kind of resistant to to want to proceed with helping or initiating ways of doing things together.”

Jessica Linford was upset by the Facebook comment made by Fras. Submitted photo

Linford, a non-Indigenous woman, was upset to see laughing icons on the post, so went to look at the comments. That’s where she saw that Fras had responded with a laughing emoji to the reader comment thanking CHEK News for the article. Linford recognized his name and confirmed that he is on Parksville city council. 

Other members of the public who saw Fras’s comment also replied to it, with one remarking: “scary he is on council in PV.”

Councillor Fras’s comment has since been deleted, although the responses are still visible.

According to the provincial government website on the conduct of locally elected officials, “Responsible conduct is grounded in elected officials conducting themselves according to principles such as integrity, accountability, respect, and leadership and collaboration in a way that furthers a local government’s ability to provide good governance to their community.”  

When contacted by IndigiNews, Parksville Mayor Doug O’Brien said, “I believe that the person that should be commenting on this posting would be Adam Fras. In all honesty, I do not follow Facebook, nor comment on posts that are brought to my attention.”

Fras is a second-term elected member of the Parksville city council and the city liaison to the Parksville and District Historical Society. According to their website, the objectives of the society are to gather and preserve information of educational, historical and cultural value associated with the area.

Fras, who began his second term as a Parksville city councillor in October of last year, is the city liaison to the Parksville and District Historical Society. In the post on Facebook announcing his decision to run again for a seat on city council, he wrote, “After years of learning the role and processes involved, I am ready to lean into my experience with the genuine, kind, and commited nature I am known for.”

For Linford, that kindness was not on display in his comment. “It feels, minimally, very inappropriate to react that way publicly.”

As for Robinson, she says Fras’s comment conflicts with his responsibilities as a city councillor. “You think about who he is and, I mean, it’s just unacceptable.”

The post ‘They invented them or what?’: Parksville councillor under fire for comment about Indigenous plants appeared first on IndigiNews.

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Hundreds march in memory of Carsyn Seaweed as community seeks answers




Carsyn Mackenzie Seaweed’s family wore white t-shirts with the teen’s photo on it. Carsyn was from the Na̱mǥis Nation on her mother’s side and Cowichan Tribes on her father’s side. She had strong family connections to both communities. Photo by Shalu Mehta

CONTENT WARNING: This story includes content regarding “Canada’s” ongoing genocidal epidemic of MMIWG2S+. Please look after your spirit and read with care.

As a dark cloud loomed overhead, hundreds of people took part in a march in Quw’utsun’ territories to show support for the family of Carsyn MacKenzie Seaweed on Wednesday.

The event in “Duncan” was held as a call for justice for the 15-year old Na̱mǥis and Quw’utsun’ girl whose suspicious death is now under investigation.

The march began at the Quw’utsun Cultural Centre and made its way through town past city hall. As the march wove through the streets, people stopped on the sidewalk and came out of shops, many with hands on their hearts, in a show of solidarity for Carsyn and her family.

Community members stopped on the street and came outside of shops to pay respects as the march walked by. Photo by Shalu Mehta

The march ended at the Cowichan Tribes soccer fields where Carsyn’s mom, Marie Seaweed, last saw her daughter.

“I gave my daughter her last hug right over there,” Seaweed said following the march.  “I just want people to see Carsyn as the beautiful, happy teenager she was. She deserved to live a long life and she deserves justice.”

Carysn’s dad, Benny George of Cowichan Tribes, also spoke to the crowd after helping to lead the march. 

Supported by family and community, Benny George sang and helped to lead the march in honour of his daughter, Carsyn MacKenzie. Photo by Shalu Mehta

“There’s just no words to express how I feel. I have my family here supporting me and carrying some of that burden,” said George, who added the display of support has been ongoing since he and Marie first received the news.

He thanked those that travelled to be at the march, including chiefs who arrived from “Alert Bay.” Carsyn lived in and had ties in many communities across “Vancouver Island,” and George says her loss has been felt across the Island. 

She came from nobility

According to a statement by North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, Carsyn was found in a “semi-conscious state under suspicious circumstances” on May 15. Family members of Carsyn have said she was found covered under pallets, cardboard and twigs. Tragically, Carsyn died after being found. 

As previously reported by IndigiNews and the Discourse, police initially told the Cowichan Valley Citizen there was no criminality involved in her death. At a rally outside of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP headquarters on May 26, Insp. Chris Bear said that this was a “miscommunication”, and apologized to Carsyn’s family.

In an email statement, RCMP said Carsyn’s death is not being investigated as a homicide, but that the circumstances leading up to her discovery are considered “suspicious,” and are being investigated. The BC Coroners Service is also investigating the death.

Carsyn’s family members from both the Cowichan Valley and Alert Bay showed up at the march to support each other and call for justice and answers for Carsyn.

From left to right, Chief Rick Johnson of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, Sandy Seaweed (Carsyn’s Grandmother), Ella (Carsyn’s younger sister), and Carsyn’s mother, Marie Seaweed. Photo by Shalu Mehta

“Carsyn comes from nobility from the four tribes of Kingcome,” said Chief Rick Johnson of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation.

Johnson said that on both sides of Carsyn’s family, she came from a long line of chiefs.

“The family wants some answers. Carsyn comes from a really strong family. There needs to be an investigation. We need to find out what happened.”

The family is seeking justice, Johnson said, advocating for First Nations people to have a voice in colonial systems that fund and dictate how investigations are carried out.

“The very basics of reconciliation is for First Nations to have a voice and we’re asking that from the powers that be,” Johnson said. “We’re asking that resources be put forward to the family, to the Cowichan Nation here, so an investigation can happen.”

Calls for justice and safety

Community members spoke before and after the march, including organizers Monica Patsy Jones and Joe “Bingo” Thorne.

“It saddens my heart that we had to come together as one because we lost a loved one,” Jones said. 

Jones’ sister, Catherine Joe, was murdered in 1977 and the case is still unsolved. Jones now heads the non-profit Cowichan Missing and Murdered Women, Men, and Children. She and other volunteers follow tips and search areas in the Cowichan Valley to find missing community members and surface answers for families. Jones said she does this advocacy work so that no one has to carry the heavy burden of losing a loved one. 

Thorne addressed the crowd before the march began, calling for people to work together — including with RCMP — to build a safer community.

“I stand with my grandchildren when I look at all the beautiful kids here, I’m honoured by your presence. We’re not just standing by you. We’re standing for you,” Thorne said.

Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum noted that the harm that has been caused to Indigenous people — particularly Indigenous women who have been targeted — has been ongoing for generations. She said community members need to support each other to stay safe by looking out for others and following safety tips such as not walking alone or by sharing their locations with friends and family.

Chief Lydia Hwitsum walked with Chief Rick Johnson after she stood to raise her hands to the hundreds that participated in the march. Photo by Shalu Mehta

Colonial institutions, such as the RCMP, also need to educate themselves on the history and role they’ve played in causing harm to Indigenous communities, Hwitsum said.

“This is a call for justice,” Hwitsum said as she addressed the crowd after the march, her voice growing louder and stronger as her speech progressed. 

“Our people are being targeted. We need to all stand together for the safety of this community and reach out together and lift each other up. Recognize when someone needs help and be that helping hand and heart.”

‘Bigger than a march’

Liza Haldane was at the march as a representative of the Tears to Hope Society. The society supports family members of missing and murdered loved ones. Haldane is from Nisga’a Nation, one of the communities along the Highway of Tears. 

Haldane said she was at the march as a mother of two Indigenous girls — two girls who she said will not become statistics.

“I just want to honour everybody here that came to fight for that justice,” Haldane said. “Not just for the injustices of all of the missing and murdered, but for the injustices of just being able to be free on our territories.”

Residential “school” survivor Eddie Charlie and friend Kristin Spray — co-founders of Victoria Orange Shirt Day — were at the march as well. Charlie said he felt compelled to attend after seeing the news about Carsyn online. Charlie and Spray presented Carsyn’s mother and grandmother with blankets.

Eddie Charlie, co-founder of Victoria Orange Shirt Day, said he felt like he needed to show up for the march and speak after seeing the news about Carsyn Mackenzie online. Photo by Shalu Mehta

Charlie said one thing he believes everyone needs to do is listen to each other and the stories everyone has. He spoke about the impacts of intergenerational trauma — particularly trauma caused by residential “schools” — and said that in order to heal, people need to talk about it.

“We need to stand up and start talking. We need our people to listen. That’s how we’re going to be able to work together, be strong as a community, be strong as family again,” Charlie said.

After the march, Cowichan Tribes council member Howie George spoke on behalf of Joe Thorne and addressed the crowd. He raised his hands to Carsyn’s family and the Chiefs who travelled to Quw’utsun lands from Alert Bay and said that the community wants to help the family heal.

March for Justice co-organizer Joe “Bingo” Thorne (left) stands beside Cowichan Tribes Council Member Howie George after the march. Photo by Shalu Mehta

George spoke about how the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people has touched communities across “Canada” and the “U.S.” for generations. He said he hopes the feeling of love and support felt at the march makes its way to people in power so change can happen. He also called for more funding and support from RCMP to lead investigations into the missing and murdered and said people need to come together to solve this issue.

“This is way bigger than what we can do ourselves. It’s bigger than a march,” George said. “But the march we have is from true love. We can send that. We have the magic to send that feeling straight to the top.”

Family seeks answers

Standing with her youngest daughter, Ella, after the march, Marie Seaweed remembered her daughter Carsyn as a “beautiful 15-year-old girl.” She said Carsyn was a “natural caretaker” who loved her family and siblings and always made people laugh. Carsyn loved soccer, had goals to become a nurse and was excited to get her driver’s licence next year, her mother said.

Carsyn’s mother, Marie Seaweed (left) stands with her eight-year-old daughter Ella and her mother, Sandy following the march. Photo by Shalu Mehta

RCMP have been keeping in contact to the extent that they can regarding the investigation into Carsyn’s death, Seaweed said. Seeing so many people spreading the word about Carsyn’s case and sharing posters about it leaves Seaweed feeling hopeful.

“I just want justice for my daughter,” Seaweed said. “I want to find out who did that to her, who left her there, because someone meant for her to be there. I just want to know.”

In a plea for justice, Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum spoke the crowd after the march and asked anyone with any information regarding Carsyn’s case to “step up, call the police, use the online reporting [and] talk to someone.”

“Share what you know. It might be just that little bit of information that’s going to help us find justice,” Hwitsum said. 

Anyone with information regarding Carsyn Mackenzie Seaweed’s case is asked to contact North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522. An online reporting tool to share information is also available.

A call to action for community safety, including personal safety recommendations, a list of crisis lines and supports and key safety and reporting contacts has also been shared by Cowichan Tribes on Facebook and the Cowichan Tribes website. 

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Community rallies for Carsyn Seaweed, as RCMP apologize for ‘miscommunication’ in her case




Insp. Chris Bear, left, addressed advocates who rallied outside of the RCMP detachment in “Duncan” on May 26. Adrian Sylvester, right, was one of the event’s organizers. Photo by Shalu Mehta

CONTENT WARNING: This story includes content regarding “Canada’s” ongoing genocidal epidemic of MMIWG2S+. Please look after your spirit and read with care.

People gathered outside of an RCMP detachment in Cowichan territories on Friday to demand justice for 15-year-old Carsyn Seaweed, whose sudden passing has rattled the community. 

On May 15, Carsyn was found in “Duncan” in a “semi-conscious state under suspicious circumstances,” according to a statement from police issued Thursday. Family members of Carsyn say she was found covered under pallets, cardboard and twigs. Tragically, Carsyn did not make it.

Carsyn’s family have been advocating for answers about their loved one’s death. A hashtag, #JusticeforCarsyn, has also been created to raise awareness about what happened and how police are handling the case.

The Cowichan Valley Citizen reported that police initially told the outlet “investigators believed there to be no criminality involved” in Carsyn’s death — a statement which led to community outcry given the state in which the teen was found. 

However at the rally on May 26, North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Insp. Chris Bear said this was a “miscommunication” and that police have actually been investigating “since the onset.” He also apologized to Carsyn’s family.

“Our investigators have been in contact with the family,” he said. “If we have created any animosity or upset I sincerely apologize to them.”

In response to the miscommunication, and to bring more attention to the case, Cowichan Tribes community members organized the rally, including Adrian Sylvester — a relative of Carsyn and the founder of the Sasquatch Clan Patrol.

“I wanted to do this rally to [bring] more awareness to the RCMP so that they don’t give up on Indigenous ladies or any lady that’s found,” he said. “That’s not right. Everybody counts in this world. We’re all the same.”

People brought posters and signs to raise awareness about Carsyn Seaweed’s case. Photo by Shalu Mehta

Carsyn was from the Na̱mǥis Nation on her mother’s side and Cowichan Tribes on her father’s side. She had strong family connections to both communities in the “Cowichan Valley” and “Alert Bay.” 

“Carsyn was a nice young lady. Always happy. Very helpful. A very caring person,” Sylvester said. 

“Kids are just full of joy, full of love, but when we have stuff like this happen in town, they lose that because they’re scared.

“We have a lot of young people growing up here and if they see all this and say they can’t go to a police officer to get help, what are they going to do?”

‘Enough is enough’

Joe “Bingo” Throne, an unofficial community liaison and knowledge keeper with the B.C School Trustee Association, also spoke at the rally.

“They have a major crimes unit that should have been there immediately,” said Throne about the RCMP.

“I love this community. Right now, you can’t run at night. You can’t let the kids play in the yard. Enough is enough.”

“It’s a state of emergency,” added Monica Patsy Jones. 

“We’re the biggest band. There should be resources, security, foot security, and programs to prepare our youth.”  

Jones’s sister Catherine Theresa Joe was murdered in 1977. She said her dream is to have a Vancouver-Island-wide alert system that would notify surrounding communities when an Indigenous person goes missing. 

People brought posters and signs to raise awareness about Carsyn Seaweed’s case. Photo by Shalu Mehta

Cowichan Tribes issued a statement on Thursday sending condolences and prayers to Carsyn’s family.

“The safety and wellbeing of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people) and vulnerable populations in our region is a top priority for me and our entire council,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum.

A spokesperson for Island District RCMP said in an email statement that Carsyn’s death is not being investigated as a homicide.

“The circumstances leading up to the discovery of the girl are suspicious and therefore being thoroughly investigated, including the RCMP Forensic Identification Service with the scene assessment and process,” the response said, in part.

“The investigation is ongoing and we are examining multiple criminal aspects”. 

To continue momentum, Thorne, Jones, and Sylvester are coordinating a march for May 31. The march is set to begin at Quw’utsun Cultural Centre parking lot at 11 a.m. 

Anyone with information about this incident is being asked to contact the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522.

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