Lessons from her death

A coroner's jury has made 10 recommendations after the body of Saskatchewan woman was found in a Surrey park two years ago, but remained unidentified for months.

Family and friends of 27-year-old Deanna Desjarlais called for the inquest, hoping it would examine why some missing persons cases are publicized by police while others are not.

None of the 10 recommendations from the jury deal specifically with how Vancouver police handled the woman's disappearance in April 2016.

Jury members have called on provincial and municipal polices forces to be required to participate in the Provincial Dental Data Bank, to help in identifying missing persons.

Other recommendations seek better release planning for inmates, more timely provision of social assistance, and easily accessible, low-barrier shelters for Indigenous or HIV-positive women.

The woman's friend, Dana Morenstein said nearly two years ago that Desjarlais, a sex-trade worker with addiction problems, was twice reported missing to Vancouver police, but her remains found in a Surrey park in May 2016 were not identified until September.

Morenstein said when police didn't take public action, she started a Facebook page to get the word out about Desjarlais, originally from Saskatoon and a member of the Kawacatoose First Nation.

The family also called for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women to examine police actions, saying too many missing women's cases are dismissed.

Because Desjarlais's body had been scavenged by animals, Morenstein said police informed the family that a cause of death hadn't been determined, but the death was considered suspicious.

Vancouver police defended their investigation, even though a media release was not issued when Desjarlais was first reported missing.

Sgt. Brian Montague said in September 2016 that officers had information in May that she was "alive and well and potentially not wanting to be located."

He said the family was notified and the file was closed. It was reopened when a second missing person report was filed the following month.

"I guarantee the investigation was handled properly," Montague said.

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