Jody Leon(right), an advocate on women’s issues and missing and murdered Indigenous women, prepares to offer a smudge to the people gathered for the candlelight vigil Nov. 2 in honour of Nicole Bell and other missing or murdered women in the area. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Candlelight vigil honours Nicole Bell and other missing B.C. women

Friends and supporters share memories, grief and healing moments

During the evening of Nov. 2, outside a small cafe in Malakwa in B.C.’s Interior, a group of people gathered to honour Nicole Bell and several other missing and murdered women. Grief hung thick in the air, but so did hope, and a sense of unity in remembering the women and striving for resolution.

Nicole Bell went missing in September 2017 and has not been seen since. She is one of five women who have gone missing in the North Okanagan-Shuswap over the past two years – Caitlin Potts, Deanna Wertz, Ashley Simpson and Tracy Genereaux, whose remains were found on a farm in Silver Creek. They and many other women in B.C. and across Canada have gone missing over the years with few answers regarding their disappearance or what will be done to find them.

Related: Documentary series investigates missing women

Led by Jody Leon, founder of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Drone Search Team, the vigil incorporated Secwépemc traditions to help cope with the grief caused by the disappearances and to share memories of Nicole Bell, who would have been celebrating her 33rd birthday on Nov. 2.

“In discussion with her family, it was decided we would hold a rally, a vigil, and bring awareness that it was her birthday, to ask people to think of Nicole,” Leon said while addressing the gathering. “She was a daughter, she was a sister and she was a mother, and her life mattered. So the fact we are here a year later and we don’t know Nicole’s whereabouts, by coming into ceremony like this, we call upon justice.”

Related: One year later: No updates in death of Vernon teen found on farm

While remembering Bell, several in attendance expressed the strong impact she had made on their lives, recalling a positive energy she passed on to others. Jesse Gallant, who grew up near Bell and would often babysit her three children, said his heart goes out to Bell’s children who have to develop a strength beyond their young age.

The vigil was held on Nicole Bell’s birthday, but it also served as an outlet to remember other women who have gone missing in B.C.’s Interior, and throughout the province.

Related: Driver’s license of missing Ashley Simpson found in northern B.C.

“In the Secwepemc Nation we also had one of our young sisters who was 18 years old, her name was Traci Genereaux, her human remains were found on a farm not far from here. We also have other women within the nation who are missing like Nicole. We have Caitlin Potts, we have Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz and, as I have said, Nicole Bell,” Leon said. “So by coming together in a vigil like this we remember them and we call for justice for these women. We know Indigenous women alone are over 4,000 in numbers who are missing or murdered and have not returned home on nights like tonight.”

Related: Courthouse steps protest leads Sagmoen bail hearing in Vernon

 

Candles, artifacts, First Nations medicines and memories of several missing women were placed near their photographs to honour their memory during the candlelight vigil Nov. 2 at the Malakwa Cafe. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

A group of supporters stand with candles and posters containing images of missing women in the Shuswap area outside the Malakwa Cafe Nov. 2, as part of a vigil held on Nicole Bell’s 33rd birthday. (Jodi Brak/Eagle Valley News)

Jody Leon leads a hand-drumming song during the candlelight vigil Nov. 2 at the Malakwa Cafe. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Update: Fire extinguished in roof of Salmon Arm retirement residence

Residents being moved back to their apartments in Lakeside Manor from regional district building

Majority of North Okanagan-Shuswap school buildings in poor condition

School District #83 superintendent says facilities report can be used to apply for needed funding

Owner of popular Salmon Arm taco stand must apply to reopen

Fans of Rosa’s Taco Stand alarmed by city accepting proposals for lease of park concession

Re-elected North Okanagan-Shuswap MP plans to be more effective in second term

Mel Arnold says he learned a lot in first term, established contacts in riding and in Ottawa

Student enrolment for 2019/20 exceeds School District #83 projections

Increase attributed to more people moving into the North Okanagan-Shuswap

Raptors Bling: NBA champions receive their rings in pre-game ceremony

There are over 650 diamonds — at a weight of 14 carats — in the 14-karat yellow gold ring

Pumpkins, more than just a jack-o-lantern: UBCO chef

The festive Halloween vegetables are great for side dishes, soups and breads

Trudeau: Climate and pipeline are priorities after election

Newly re-elected Trudeau wants to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion quickly

Apex Volunteer Fire Brigade receives AED donation from Sheeprock Lodge Strata

The brigade is asking for more donations in order to offer medical responses

‘Find Trevor’: B.C. man’s dog leads searchers to rescue him after fall during hike

‘I’ve had lots of intelligent dogs, but Purple is in a class herself’

15 Canadian youths to sue Ottawa for not acting on climate change

They say young people will be more affected than other groups

Baldy Mountain Resort establishes fuel break to protect from future wildfires

The project was made possible thanks to funding from the FESBC

Faster response may have prevented fatal outcome at B.C. trampoline park

Coroner’s report rules Greater Victoria father Jay Greenwood’s death accidental

Most Read