FILE — The Splatsin First Nation’s Red Dress Walk took place in Enderby in October. (Brieanna Charlebois/Morning Star)

EDITORIAL: Stand-alone rallies more powerful

We worry the credibility of the movement may be tainted by these rallies.

How do you draw attention to an important cause in a way that will generate the maximum amount of interest and deliver the biggest impact? Gather where the media gathers.

As Curtis Sagmoen has been making court appearances in Vernon on mischief charges, a group honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has been meeting at the courthouse to rally for the memories of missing local women, which includes Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz, Nicole Bell and 18-year-old Vernon woman Traci Genereaux, whose remains were found on the Silver Creek farm owned by Sagmoen’s parents.

As we state every time we mention these rallies during our coverage of Sagmoen’s court appearances here, no charges have been laid connected to Genereaux’s death and no suspects have been named by police.

It’s difficult to miss the inference being made by the rally attendees.

Sagmoen is due back in Vernon court on Jan. 7 relating to counts of assault and assault causing bodily harm. He has been charged with five counts related to an August 2017 incident involving a sex trade worker near Falkland. He has also been charged with assault causing bodily harm relating to a 2013 incident in Maple Ridge. It’s likely there will be rallies at those appearances as well.

While we deeply commend the work to keep MMIW top of mind by this committed group, we worry the credibility of the movement may be tainted by these rallies. Critics tout the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mantra when cautioning against public displays tied to people not formally named as suspects. We can see both sides. The group feels they must do everything they can to stir public interest in these cold cases, and they know there will be media coverage at Sagmoen appearances.

The stand-alone events, like the Red Dress Walk that took place in Enderby in October, are powerful reminders of this ongoing issue that strike the right chord without the muddy waters tied to specific court appearances.

“There are a lot of missing women right across B.C. and we search for them all,” said Jody Leon of the Splatsin First Nation during the October walk. “It’s important for people to continue to talk about the women within the Splatsin First Nation area — and for all women — and to go forward and not allow their names or their stories to be forgotten because out of that, answers will come out to the RCMP and that will give closure to the families.”

We couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.

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