Megan Louis speaks about the issue of missing and murdered women at the Vernon Courthouse Thursday. (Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star)

Protesters gather during Shuswap man’s court appearance

Group in Vernon remembers missing and murdered women after police find human remains on property

Megan Louis is speaking for her cousin and others, though Lord knows she wishes she didn’t have to.

Louis, a member of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation near Burns Lake, who lives in Vernon, led about a dozen First Nations women and men protesters in singing songs and banging drums on the Vernon Courthouse steps Thursday morning to remember missing and murdered indigenous women. The list includes her cousin, Danita Bigeagle of Regina, who hasn’t been seen in 10 years.

Bigeagle’s mother, Diane, has been an outspoken advocate for missing and murdered indigenous women.

“Anything to do with missing and murdered indigenous and non-indigenous women is very close to me,” said Louis. “Any violent acts against women…that’s unacceptable.”

The group gathered on the same day a man was appearing in Provincial Court in Vernon, via video, facing seven charges in connection with an incident Aug. 27 at a property on Salmon River Road near Falkland, where a woman reported being threatened by a man with a firearm.

A woman had attended a pre-arranged meeting with a man in the area of Salmon River Road. The meeting had been set up via an online website utilized by escorts and sex workers.

Curtis Wayne Sagmoen, born in 1980, has been charged with disguising his face with intent to commit an offence; intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless; uttering threats; careless use or storage of a firearm; pointing a firearm; possessing weapon for dangerous purpose; and possession of a controlled narcotic.

Sagmoen was remanded in custody pending his next court appearance on Nov. 23. No additional charges were added. His court matter lasted less than five minutes.

A publication ban prohibiting releasing the name of the victim was put in place.

The court appearance came as RCMP remain at a Salmon River Road property owned by Sagmoen’s father where human remains have been discovered.

Police have not indicated how long they plan to be at the property searching.

Court records have been sealed for the property search.

Outside court, Louis read statements from Splatsin First Nation Chief Wayne Christian, and Judy Wilson, a Neskonlith band member in the Shuswap and a member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs executive.

“Violence against women is unacceptable,” said Christian, adding he was opposed to any bail release for Sagmoen.

Said Wilson: “We have gathered together several times over the week to support the women and girls who have been reported missing in our area and to let their families know we will support them through these difficult times. The RCMP have a role and our message is justice is needed for all women and girls, and that we call upon them to ensure communications with the families involved and support to go through the processes.

“Assault and violence against our women and girls must be taken serious at all levels and be treated that way in any sentencing. Too many times it’s a slap on the wrist with no justice. This needs to change.”

Asked about the RCMP search at the Salmon River Road property, Louis said it was “sickening that it’s happening so close to home.”

“I hope whoever’s remains were found at the farm gets closure,” she said.

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