It’s been seven years since Caitlin Potts went missing, and friends and family of the Indigenous Enderby woman aren’t giving up the fight for justice.
Caitlin’s mother, Priscilla Potts, and Caitlin’s teenage son Shane, drove from Pigeon Lake, Alta. to join a gathering outside the Vernon RCMP detachment Tuesday afternoon.
Candles were lit, sage was burned and rally cries were shouted calling for justice for Caitlin and other missing and murdered women.
Caitlin was last seen in Enderby on Feb. 22, 2016. She was in addiction services when she disappeared. A missing person’s report was filed March 1, 2016. A year later, surveillance footage was released showing Caitlin entering Hudson’s Bay at the Orchard Park Shopping Centre in Kelowna. The clip was from Feb. 21, 2016.
Even though Caitlin’s body hasn’t been found, Priscilla went into the police detachment to officially declare her daughter deceased.
Priscilla wasn’t expecting much in the way of new information about her daughter’s case in her visit to the detachment. She hasn’t received a call from police in some time. In fact, she’s had a tough time getting information from them over the last seven years.
“We have to come here (for updates). We have to ask them,” Priscilla said.
“It’s a struggle. I get tired. The family’s still suffering. We don’t have answers,” Priscilla added. “We have to keep pushing.”
Priscilla is doubtful that Caitlin’s body will ever be found; nothing has turned up since an investigation was launched in March 2017.
“I don’t have a lot of hope.”
But even with scant hope, Priscilla hasn’t given up. At the Tuesday rally she held up a sign reading ‘Justice for Caitlin,’ while the group of more than a dozen chanted “no more stolen sisters” and “RCMP action now.”
Jody Leon organized the rally, as she’s done many times for the sake of missing and murdered women.
“Today’s rally is to raise awareness again for Caitlin because the case has gone to be a cold case,” Leon said, adding Caitlin’s case doesn’t have a Major Crimes Unit investigator assigned to it — one of several RCMP shortcomings in the case that Leon has identified. She also wants the RCMP to reassess the case, release an updated, age enhanced photo of Caitlin and assign specialists to Caitlin’s file.
“We haven’t seen many resources and we haven’t seen much support. Every time the family’s come out here they’ve had difficulty in getting (access to) agencies like the family information liaison unit,” Leon said.
“The system needs to change for Indigenous women.”
Leon says many files in the missing and murdered catalogue leave much to be desired, with incorrect spellings, birth dates or descriptions.
“And in Caitlin’s case there was an RCMP error I felt because it took them over a year to put the video file evidence where her last sighting was at the Orchard Park mall.”
Leon is fighting for more women than Caitlin Potts. Nicole Bell and Deanna Wertz are also missing from their communities of Malakwa and Enderby. Ashley Simpson’s remains were found in a wilderness area outside of Salmon Arm in November 2021. Derek Lee Matthew Favell, 40, is charged with second degree murder in her death. His trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 30.
Meanwhile, the family of 17-year-old Traci Genereaux is still waiting for charges to be laid after her remains were discovered on a farm near Silver Creek owned by the Sagmoen family in October 2017. Curtis Sagmoen, who was living there, has been convicted of crimes of threats and violence against women, including an assault in August 2017 of a sex worker by running into her with an ATV at the property.
“With (Traci) we need justice, we need answers,” Leon said.
Members of HOPE Outreach also attended the rally. Interim executive director Shey Still said they came to support the Potts family, as the HOPE team works with vulnerable women who are experiencing violence in the community.
“We do whatever we can and get out in the community and advocate for people that are still missing to be able to come home or get some answers,” Still said.
There are plans to hold a candlelight vigil for Caitlin Potts at the bridge in Enderby on Thursday, July 13. The plans are still in the works, and a time has not yet been set.