Every year, no matter where they are or what they are doing, Claudette Osborne’s family make sure they sit down together and celebrate her birthday.
“We celebrate his birthday every year with his favorite food and a cake,” said Matt Bushby of a tradition he has with his children and those of Claudette Osborne, Iziah, 14, and Patience, 13.
But sadly, when Osborne’s family sit down for his birthday, Osborne can’t be there with them, and hasn’t been there for 13 years.
“It’s been 13 years since we’ve seen Claudette, and to say that there’s been little to no information about what happened to her is frustrating to say the least,” Bushby said. “Like all great loss, there are many stages of grieving that we go through, and we are no different.”
Claudette Osborne, who has not been seen or heard from since the summer of 2008, is one of the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in recent decades.
But the tragic and continuing story of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada is more than a series of cold crimes and cases investigated by police investigators.
It is the story of mothers torn from their children, of daughters torn from their parents, of sisters torn from their siblings and loved ones torn from their friends and family.
“We have our bad days and others that we can, in a way, bring it into our current life,” Bushby said. “Whether it was a reminder of her laugh, her awesome dress style, or a food she loved. ”
Bushby and Osborne got engaged in the summer of 2008 and had just welcomed their second child Patience, when Osborne, who was 21 at the time, disappeared from the streets of Winnipeg.
What is known and confirmed by Winnipeg police is that Osborne was in the Selkirk Avenue and Charles Street area on the afternoon of July 24, 2008, and later went to the Lincoln Motor Hotel (now the Four Crowns Inn) on McPhillips Street, check-in around 11:00 p.m.
Police said Osborne left the Lincoln Motor Hotel the next morning and headed towards the Selkirk Avenue and King Street area, claiming she was in that area around 6:30 a.m.
“In the early hours of July 25, Ms. Osborne left the Lincoln Motor Hotel, however, there was no report that anyone saw her after she left. She made several calls after leaving the hotel, ”Winnipeg police said in an email.
What followed since this morning was over a decade of waiting and questioning for those who loved Osborne.
“My fear now is that his case will remain a cold file that only dust off,” Bushby said. “As a family, we need closure. ”
Bushby and her family are among thousands of families across the country grappling with mourning and the loss of a loved one, and with days and weeks more and more stories of missing Indigenous women and girls and murdered are revealed.
Another case that has haunted friends and family for over a decade is the case of Tanya Nepinak, who left her Winnipeg home one September day to pick up a pizza in 2011 and never returned to the House.
On September 13, 2011, Nepinak, 31, told her mother that she was planning to walk to a pizzeria a few blocks away. She has not been seen or heard since walking through the door that day.
But less than a year later, in 2012, a breakup occurred in the case, and it was she who brought to light that a serial killer lived in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg man Shawn Lamb was arrested in 2012 for three murders, including the murder of Nepinak, despite Nepinak’s body not being found, and police said despite the absence body, she believed that Nepinak was dead.
“After a lengthy investigation, evidence was provided to Manitoba Justice who authorized a charge against Shawn Lamb. The previous investigation identified Shawn Lamb as the person responsible for Ms. Nepinak’s death, ”Winnipeg police said in a 2018 statement.
In November 2013, Lamb was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the murders of Carolyn Sinclair, 25, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18.
However, the charges against Lamb in the Nepinak murder were dropped when it was ruled that there was insufficient evidence linking Lamb to the murder which it was thought could lead to a conviction.
And yet another story of a murdered Manitoban girl is even more tragic because she lost her life before she even reached her 18th birthday.
Cherisse Houle was only 17 years old when her body was discovered in a creek in the RM of Rosser, about 10 miles west of Winnipeg.
Houle was living in Winnipeg in the summer of 2009, and was the mother of an 18-month-old son, and police said she was last seen at her home in downtown Winnipeg on June 26, 2009 and that ‘she was reported missing later that day.
Construction workers found her lifeless body in the creek west of Winnipeg, and there has never been an arrest in the case.
As an NDP MP, Bernadette Smith spent years fighting and defending missing and murdered Indigenous women and their families, but also fought her own personal battle, along with others like Matt Bushby and his children, to find out what happened to Claudette Osborne. , because Osborne is his younger sister.
“Next week it will be 13 years since Claudette has been missing, and if anything it gets more difficult,” Smith said Thursday. “You have no answer, and every day you wonder if this is the day she is going to be brought home.
“The phone rings and you’re like ‘Is this the call you’re waiting for, or are the police saying they found it?’ Not a minute goes by that I don’t think about her.
“I wake up everyday and fall asleep every night thinking about her.”
She also made it clear that she was frustrated when her sister first went missing because she didn’t think there was enough urgency on the part of law enforcement to help find her sister in the hours and days after his disappearance.
“The police didn’t take her seriously, so it took days before they started investigating. We had to go out on our own as family and friends and hammer the sidewalk, put up posters and set up a social media account, ”Smith said.
Smith said that as a MLA, but also as someone who has lost a loved one, she will continue to press law enforcement in Manitoba to be more urgent when ‘they receive reports of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
“I think it has improved, but we are still pushing for the police to treat every case as if it were a criminal act or some suspicious circumstance, whether it was a chronic running away. or someone who has never gone missing or been missing before. ” Smith said.
“They need the same level of investigation and the same response. Every call should be considered critical.
And Smith’s colleague and longtime friend NDP MP Nahanni Fontaine, who is the NDP spokesperson for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People, said there must be a much better awareness across the country of how many indigenous families went through this kind of heartache and heartache.
“Most Canadians will never experience the theft, disappearance or murder of a loved one, but when you look from coast to coast, very few Indigenous families are unaffected by it,” said Fountain.
She said that despite all the pain that many families have gone through, she is “inspired” by how the indigenous community has stood up to seek justice and support each other in the face of so much grief.
“When you look at the amount of hard work, commitment, dedication and love that these families have for their loved ones and for each other, it’s actually amazing to witness it,” said Fontaine.
“It is a front row seat of the power of resilience, the power of families seeking justice and the power to love unconditionally.
“It really is a testament to the strength of our people. ”
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter working for the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.