A lifetime of agony: Families of missing, murdered Inuit women call for answers

Every day on his way to work in 2016, Veldon Coburn drove past Bordeleau Park, by the edge of the Rideau River near downtown Ottawa.

On a September day that year, while he drove past the park, Coburn heard on the radio that a body had been found in the river.

Days later, he learned that the person found in the river was Annie Pootoogook, a renowned Inuk artist who won the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2006 and whose work has been shown around the world.

She was also the biological mother of Coburn’s adopted daughter, Napachie, who was four years old at the time.

Despite her success, Pootoogook struggled with homelessness while in Ottawa. Police investigated her death as suspicious, but no charges were ever laid.

This year, Sept. 19 marked the sixth anniversary of Pootoogook’s death. Napachie turned 10 years old the same month. Coburn said that at each anniversary, he wonders if he should be doing more to find answers for his daughter about what happened to her biological mother.

“There’s so many questions left unanswered. What if Napachie starts asking in 10 years, ‘Why didn’t you ask more questions?”‘ he said.

This anniversary was especially heavy, he said, because it came just days after a 22-year-old Inuk woman was found dead in Ottawa.


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