Community members gathered outside the RCMP detachment in Duncan on Friday to demand better from police in cases involving Indigenous people after the death of a 15-year-old girl.
Carsyn Seaweed, who had ties to Cowichan Tribes, was found semi-conscious on May 15, covered in twigs, leaves and a wooden pallet behind a Super 8 motel in Duncan, her mother said. The teen died later in hospital.
“We have enough missing and murdered women around here and all over Canada as it is now, so we need to stop this,” said Adrian Sylvester, who organized the rally.
RCMP said Wednesday that investigators believed there was no criminality involved in Carsyn’s death, but on Thursday said a criminal investigation was underway and was being treated with “extreme priority and concern.”
After Sylvester entered the detachment during the rally, two RCMP officers came out to meet the group of about 40 people, many of whom held “Justice for Carsyn” signs.
“We just want you to know that all people matter when it comes to situations like this,” Sylvester told the officers, questioning why it appeared Mounties were not conducting a criminal investigation into Carsyn’s death from the beginning.
Insp. Chris Bear said the messaging from police around criminality changed from Wednesday to Thursday because there had been a miscommunication between the North Cowichan-Duncan RCMP detachment and the Island district media liaison.
“There’s been some miscommunication, which I completely own up that that we had, that it was misconstrued that we aren’t investigating,” Bear said.
”We have been giving this everything that we have since the onset, and we’re doing everything that we can for the family.”
Bear said the investigation was never closed, and he apologized to the family and the community for the “miscommunication.”
“We’ll look to strive to do better and communicate,” he said.
Bear appealed for witnesses with information regarding the events leading to Carsyn’s death to call the North Cowichan-Duncan RCMP detachment at 250-748-5522.
In an email on Friday, Alex Bérubé, media relations for RCMP Island District, wrote that Carsyn’s death is not being investigated as a homicide, but “the circumstances leading up to the discovery of the girl are suspicious and therefore being thoroughly investigated.”
Sylvester said he doesn’t believe that RCMP miscommunicated and that the investigation was never closed.
“If it was any of their relatives that were found, they’d have all the police from all over the Island investigating this. But when it’s an Indigenous child, it’s swept under the rug,” he said.
Monica Jones, from the Comiaken village of Cowichan Tribes, said the death of Carsyn and of other Indigenous people in the region hit her hard because her sister’s death in 1977 remains unsolved.
Her sister, Catherine Joe, was 27 when her body was found in a ditch in Duncan by a hitchhiker.
Jones remembers being treated rudely when visiting the police station to ask for answers.
Her experience and the disappearances of several of her nephews led her to help create the group Cowichan Missing and Murdered Women, Men and Children. She and others go out looking for people reported missing and highlight their cases.
Jones said police should communicate with the community and media more.
“They need to expose it out to the community, you know, because there’s lots of things that go on in our community that’s not talked about, and we need it out there,” she said.
On Wednesday, a walk for justice for Carsyn and a safer community is planned in Duncan, starting at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre at 11 a.m.