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This article was published 6/3/2016 (1887 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The father of Cooper Nemeth, the 17-year-old boy found slain last month after being missing for a week, has written in a letter that the search for his son received no special treatment from police, and added other people joined him and his wife in their search because they asked for help.
Brent Nemeth wrote a response to Saturday’s Free Press story about a letter written to Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis and other authorities by 14-year-old Collège Jeanne Sauvé student Brianna Jonnie instructing them on what to do if she were to go missing. In her letter, Brianna wrote police and community members don’t look as hard for indigenous people as they do for white people and that the media does not cover stories of missing indigenous people the same way they cover stories of missing white people.
"If I go missing and the WPS has not changed the behaviours I have brought to your attention, I beg of you, do not treat me as the indigenous person I am proud to be," Brianna wrote in her letter.
Nemeth said after he read Brianna’s letter, he wrote a response, "because it breaks my heart to believe that any child believes I see them as anything more or less than a child who deserves love every moment of their entire lives and who needs to be found when they are lost."
"I believe in my heart of hearts searches are fuelled by families and communities and police can only do the job they are enlisted to do... And it is the same for everyone. Cooper Nemeth had so much support because his parents knew if there was any type of letter in his heart it would say exactly that. They found the leads... the tips... and the feet on the street to rattle the earth and bring their baby home. As kind as the police may have been... there were no extras... no special stigmatism because they are a white family with a son who played hockey," Nemeth stated in his letter.
Nemeth said members of the hockey community were "willing to take to the streets and aid in the search. Being the people they are made everyone who knows them and whose lives they have touched put on their parkas and join in that search. It wasn't 1,500 police officers out there."
In her letter, Brianna pointed to three cases of people who went missing: Tina Fontaine, Thelma Krull and Cooper Nemeth.
Brianna wrote: "The colour of one’s skin, their socio-economic status, or whom their legal guardian is, should not determine the level of assistance and resources put in place to find them if they are missing and yet, it does."
Tina, an indigenous girl who had a history of running away, was 15 when she disappeared Aug. 9, 2014. Her body was found in the Red River about a week later.
Raymond Joseph Cormier, 53, has been charged with second-degree murder in Tina's death.
Krull, 57, went missing last July after leaving home to go on a morning walk. She remains missing.
Cooper went missing last month after going to a house party and leaving with a man known to police. Cooper’s body was found a week later.
Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, is charged with second-degree murder in Cooper's death.
Brianna said while information about Krull and Cooper was made public less than 24 hours after they went missing, the first request for the public’s help to look for Tina was four days after she was reported missing. In the cases of Krull and Cooper, hundreds of strangers pitched in to help search for them.
Nemeth noted in his letter that those searches had nothing to do with the police and everything to do with the families and friends of the missing people mobilizing resources and inviting other community members to join.
Nemeth’s letter stated, "As heartbreaking as it was to read what this girl believes her worth to be based on gender and race," he said Brianna should have written the letter to her parents since they would have to lead the charge to find her if she went missing, just as he and his wife Gaylene searched for their missing son.
Nemeth stated in his letter that he believes his son would have written to him and Gaylene if he could have done so before he disappeared.
"I love you both and I would never choose to be away from you so don't wait a minute for anyone else to begin a search for me. Know in your heart of hearts that this something that YOU have to take on and you can't wait one day...two days or four days for the go ahead from anyone else. Do whatever you have to do to find me and shake the ground until you do because nothing in this world could keep me away from you," Nemeth wrote in what he believes would have been Cooper’s words.
"Don't wait for the police to look for me. They will do what they can and what they are allotted to do for every single missing person case there is. They will issue a statement and follow leads but it is up to you mom and dad to help find those leads for them and rally every single person you can to help find me. The police can’t do that for us... or anyone else."
Nemeth said in his own letter that Winnipeg’s Bear Clan, an inner-city group with indigenous roots whose members volunteer their time to try to make the streets safer, led by example with a caring spirit that focused only on the fact a child was missing — not on colour or race — when its members joined the search for Cooper.
"It makes me most sad because it made me realize that it's letters like that which take us back 5 steps after we move ahead two when it comes to bridging gaps," he said in his letter. "The Bear Clan was amazing in the search for Cooper Nemeth. They didn't stop for one second to think of race or colour or gender. They saw a need and felt the anguish and moved right in to do whatever they could to help as human beings."
Nemeth stated in his letter that during his search for his son, he spent a lot of time in all different areas of the city and learned that "racism has nothing to do with race."
"Natives accuse the white people... white people accuse the natives. That's malarkey. There are racist natives and there are racists white people. There are beautiful caring natives and there are beautiful caring white people," he said in his letter.
"So when this little girl writes a letter to her own parents on what to do if she goes missing... we can all be there to help find her and when we do... She can pick a dress of any colour to wear to her graduation. "
Read Brent Nemeth's full letter below.