Annual No Stone Unturned event, concert keeps memories of missing and murdered women alive

·5 min read

Bernadette Smith understands how important it is to offer support and assistance to the families of missing and murdered women and girls, because she has spent the last 14 years seeking answers and wondering every day what happened to her little sister Claudette.

“It’s like torture, you don’t have any answers, you don’t know what happened, and you relive it every day,” Smith said over the phone on Friday, as she works to organize the annual No Stone Unturned Concert in honour of missing and murdered women and girls and all missing and murdered persons, which will take place next weekend in Winnipeg.

“It’s not like time just passes and time heals, because it doesn’t. It’s still a wound that has not healed, and we don’t know if it’s ever going to heal, and if we’re ever going to get answers.”

Smith, who currently serves as a NDP MLA in the Manitoba Legislature, says that 14 years ago her family’s own nightmare began when her younger sister 21-year-old Claudette Osborne went missing off the streets of Winnipeg in the early morning hours of July 25, 2008, leaving behind her family, a fiancée, and her four children.

“We continue to search, we continue to raise awareness, but at the same time it’s still fresh, it’s still always there,” Smith said.

Osborne is sadly one of the thousands of Indigenous women and girls that have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the last several decades.

According to Winnipeg Police, Osborne was around the area of Selkirk Avenue and Charles Street on the afternoon of July 24, 2008, and later she went to the Lincoln Motor Hotel (now the Four Crowns Inn) on McPhillips Street, checking in at approximately 11 p.m.

Police say that Osborne left the Lincoln Motor Hotel the next morning and made her way to the area of Selkirk Avenue and King Street, saying she was in that area around 6:30 a.m.

Osborne hasn’t been seen or heard from since that morning 14 years ago.

After Osborne went missing, Smith and others organized what has now become an annual event in Winnipeg to commemorate Osborne, and to support her family and her children.

The No Stone Unturned event has now grown over the last 14 years into an annual event and concert organized to show support for the families and loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and of all missing or murdered people.

“This started as a vigil for my sister, and it started by her family to create a legacy in her honour,” Smith said. “And it has quickly evolved into something that shows support to all families of missing and murdered people.”

Smith said she knows that when people have loved ones go missing or be murdered that they can often feel like they are all alone, and that no one is there to help them and support them, and she said the No Stone Unturned event is a way to show people that others are there to show that support.

“This is to bring people together and communities together to wrap their arms around families that have lost someone,” Smith said.

The event was also created to bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as that demographic continues to be greatly overrepresented in statistics concerning missing and murdered people in Canada, as well as incidents of gender-based violence.

According to data from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Indigenous women make up 16% of all female homicide victims, and 11% of missing women, even though Indigenous people make up 4.3% of the population of Canada.

As well, a study released earlier this year by Statistics Canada showed that Indigenous women across the country continue to experience much higher rates of violence and sexual assault than non-Indigenous women.

According to the report, 63% of Indigenous women have experienced physical or sexual assault in their lifetime in Canada, while 33% of non-Indigenous Canadians having experienced physical assault or sexual assault.

“It’s super important to create awareness around this,” Smith said. “We have to call governments to account, but also call the community to account.

“It’s going to have to take a switch in society, and in how we treat one another.”

This year’s No Stone Unturned Concert in Honour of Manitoba’s Missing & Murdered event will take place on Saturday Aug. 13, from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. at St. John's Park at 1201 Main Street in Winnipeg.

Smith said that all are invited to the event, and it will feature a free lunch and a free dinner, silent auction, t-shirts for sale, lots of activities for kids and adults, free entertainment, and will wrap up with a vigil around 10:30 p.m.

Anyone with any information about Claudette Osborne’s missing persons case is asked to call the Project Devote tipline at 1-888-673-3316 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (204-786-8477) in Winnipeg, or at 1-800-222-8477 for residents living outside of Winnipeg.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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