A makeshift memorial on Deschamps Avenue marks the site where human remains were discovered — remains Ottawa police say belong to Mary Papatsie.
Papatsie, who was 39 at the time of her April 2017 disappearance, is being remembered for her caring and quick smile.
The Ottawa Police Service’s major crime unit took over the file two and a half months after Papatsie disappeared, and in September 2017 announced it had deemed the disappearance suspicious.
Last month, the homicide unit began investigating the discovery of potential human remains unearthed at a construction site on Deschamps Avenue near Desrosiers Street.
Her brother Tommy Papatsie came to see the memorial on Monday with one of Mary’s childhood friends. He said it’s been difficult for the family to process.
“We just broke into tears. It’s been a really hard couple of days. We’re still going through it. In a way, we are grateful her remains were found,” Tommy said. “We were completely lost for the last five years.”
There were a dozen floral arrangements hanging in the construction fence next to a red dress. Tommy said he was grateful for the display.
“It makes me feel better. I’m sure there are a lot of good people out there who remember Mary well,” he said.
‘She is part of our community’
Shirley Tessier, who said she knew Mary, visited the memorial on Sunday.
“I feel it’s very important to remember her because she is part of our community,” Tessier told Radio-Canada.
“Being an Indigenous lady, I can relate to the situation. Because we have had many, many murdered, missing Indigenous women and children.”
Mary was the youngest of eight siblings. She had 10 children and one grandchild.
Papatsie’s family had previously told CBC News she’d been an easygoing young woman who was raised in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, on Baffin Island.
She’d been working in the North assisting doctors and nurses, her brother said, until about two decades ago when she was sexually assaulted. She then moved to Ottawa, and she was living on the streets in the nation’s capital at the time of her disappearance.
“She was always smiling. She cared a lot about other people,” he said. “Even though she had her own demons, she would [go] out of her way to help other people.”
Tommy said the family is planning a memorial event. He said he hopes this latest revelation will help provide answers to what happened to his sister.
Ottawa police said anyone with information is urged to contact the homicide unit or Crime Stoppers.