Lisa Marie Young’s family and friends gather in Nanaimo on Canada Day long weekend for a vigil in her memory and to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. While a 2014 RCMP report concluded there were 1,181 incidents of missing or murdered aboriginal women between 1980 and 2012, some say the real number could be as high as 4,000. (Photo courtesy of Carol Frank)

Sweet 16 and still missing

The search for Lisa Marie Young continues 16 years after her disappearance.

The pain from losing a family member is weighted, heavy, like a ship anchor. Local Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Carol Frank knows all too uncomfortably well what it means to carry that weight.

On Canada Day long weekend of 2002, her 21-year-old niece Lisa Marie Young went out with friends to a Nanaimo bar and was never seen again. Sixteen years later, her disappearance remains a mystery.

“The case will never be closed,” said Frank.

Constable Gary O’Brien of the Nanaimo RCMP re-iterated.

“This is not collecting dust. It will always be an open investigation,” he said. “We believe that there is somebody out there that has information that can assist with the investigation and we need to hear from them. They can go to any police detachment in Canada or anywhere in the world and talk to a police officer. If they want to remain anonymous, they can call the generic Crime Stoppers line [1-800-222-8477].”

Frank told the Westerly she met with two major crime unit investigators and a senior family support worker on June 18 to discuss Lisa Marie’s file.

“It brought comfort to our family knowing they are still following leads,” she said. “We’d like to finally find her. It would bring peace.”

READ: Tla-o-qui-aht First nation seek answers as search for missing fishermen continues (Westerly News, Jun. 26, 2018)

O’Brien said a substantial amount of tips have come in regarding Lisa Marie’s case.

“Every one of those tips has been investigated and it’s essential that we do so. It’s been 16 years. There has been a lot of investigators. There’s always a fresh set of eyes. We are always looking at ways to move forward with it. That file will never be closed until we find out who is responsible for her disappearance and hold them accountable,” said Cst. O’Brien.

A vigil for Lisa Marie takes place each year in Nanaimo on the day of her disappearance, June 30. Frank journeyed from the West Coast with a few family members for the day.

“We walked from the police station with our signs, went downtown over the bridge, walked by the bar, and then along the waterfront. We walked on the bridge and stood there for half an hour. That bridge was her favourite place to sit,” said Frank.

Cst. O’Brien, who knew Lisa Marie when she was teenager, represented the Nanaimo RCMP at the vigil.

“I remember the call from her good friend the night she went missing. ‘Hey, Gary, I can’t get a hold of Lisa Marie, we’re really, really worried for her.’ And unbeknownst to me, the investigation had already started,” he remembers.

The pain that Frank bares for Lisa Marie is heavier still this summer as her sister and Lisa’s mom, Marlene Joe-Anne Young, passed away a year ago.

“Marlene never gave up,” said Frank. “She always wanted Lisa’s name to be out there and remembered.”

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