'Gone, but not forgotten'

Josh Winquist

"Gone, but not forgotten. Gone, but not forgotten. Gone, but not forgotten."

The unison chanting of protesters could be heard echoing from the steps of the Vernon Law Courts. 

They gathered to show support for the missing women of the North Okanagan, and to stand together in the face of violence towards women, not only in the Okanagan community but across the country.

Curtis Wayne Sagmoen was the target of their grief; their sadness and their ire. 

Sagmoen has been charged with several offences stemming from alleged violent acts against women. 

He was denied full bail yesterday and will remain in custody at least until a preliminary hearing is held. A fix-a-date for the preliminary hearing has been set for March 8.  

When word began to trickle out of the courtroom Sagmoen had been granted bail on some of the charges, many of the protesters broke out in tears. One woman, who identified herself as the sister of Traci Genereaux, didn't hold back her disappointment and devastation, crying as she ran out of the courtroom. 

Genereaux's remains were found on a farm owned by Sagmoen's parents. No charges have been laid in that discovery.

The effort to keep Genereaux's name at the forefront is a fight the protestors vow to keep up. It is also their intention to make sure no one forgets the names Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz, Nicole Bell and Caitlin Potts — all of whom have gone missing from the North Okanagan-Shuswap area in less than a two year period.

Anna Thomas, the president of the BC Native Women's Association, stood tall and defiant in the wake of the bail decision. She said she and her association stands with the family Traci Genereaux, as well as all other families of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. 

"The culture of discrimination, abuse, silence and violence against women must end," she told Castanet. "Violence against all women is unacceptable. Our women, children, LGBTQ2S deserve equality and justice."

It is beyond time for a change, she demanded.

"Family, community members, leaders, we all need to be proactive, working collectively, challenging sexism and male privilege. It is a human right that everyone can live their life without the fear of violence or death."

While wrestling with emotion, Wendy Morh said to the media that they will stand taller and be more vocal.

"We will stand together stronger. We will stay united and spread our word further than before. We are going to yell louder and reach more people and we are going to stay safe together."

The allegations against Curtis Sagmoen shines a light on a community of vulnerable women in the North Okanagan, and the realities, that as a whole, this country must do more to protect those who need it most. 

"We are going to make sure that nobody forgets that this is about the women who have been hurt, killed gone missing and their families who are broken because of it," declared Morh. "We are not going to allow it any longer. We are going to yell until somebody hears us, and we are going to keep each other safe if nobody else is doing it for us."

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