An open letter criticizing the way Winnipeg Police handles missing indigenous women and girls is turning heads.
14-year-old Brianna Jonnie wrote a letter to Chief Devon Clunis, Mayor Brian Bowman and others, arguing that officers do not take missing indigenous women as seriously as non-indigenous people.
The letter blew up online and attracted enough attention to garner a meeting with the mayor today.
“It was a really good experience. Meeting with Mayor Bowman, talking about the subject made things a little bit more clear,” Jonnie says. “He was definitely passionate about the matter.”
In the letter, Jonnie brings up the immediate attention surrounding the disappearance of Thelma Krull and Cooper Nemeth. She compared that with the Tina Fontaine case, arguing it took police four days to ask for help from the public.
“I’m happy with the response I’ve been getting” Jonnie explains. “I never really expected it to go this big at all, but I’m glad that people are talking about it more.”
Jonnie believes if she went missing, it would not be handled with urgency simply because she’s indigenous and it would be treated as “another one of them ran away.”
But police say that skin colour has nothing to do with how they treat a missing persons case. Detective Sgt. Shaunna Neufeld heads up the Missing Persons Unit. She says they prioritize cases based on how much danger the missing person might be in.
“It’s nothing about racism. It’s about caring and concern and prioritizing what our immediate needs are. We want every kid or every adult to be found safe and that’s our ultimate goal.”
Jonnie’s letter was inspired by the city-wide search for 17-year-old murder victim Cooper Nemeth, who was white.
Nemeth’s father has written his own letter saying his family got no special treatment.