When Angela Meyer disappeared in 2010 she was days from getting the mental health care she needed that was not available in N.W.T.
“She actually was looking forward to it,” said her father, Dean Meyer.
Dean told the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Tuesday in Yellowknife he doesn’t think the pending trip was a factor in her disappearing from Yellowknife, but he’ll never know because Angela, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen, was never seen again.
“In one week she was booked to go down south because they couldn’t look after her here anymore,” he said, his voice breaking.
The Meyers were the first family to testify publicly in Yellowknife, the ninth stop for the commission since it began a two-year term in 2017. About 40 people are scheduled to make presentations, officials said.
See more on the first day of MMIWG public hearings in Yellowknife:
“It has been eight Christmases without her,” noted her mother, Kathy.
“I miss her very much. Even now.”
It was November 27 when Angela, 22, stepped out on the deck of the family home to have a cigarette. She was out of the psychiatric unit of the hospital on a day pass.
Her mom said she was a bright, popular girl who saw her friends drop away after being diagnosed with the mental illness around 15 years old.
“Through the stigma, I suppose,” said Kathy.
The family was at a loss to help the daughter they loved so much and couldn’t find services for.
“There was really nothing that could be done for her; we have many in our community that have this,” Kathy added.
Her mother said there were violent outbursts, lots of frustration and anger. Kathy said Angela gained weight from the medication and developed diabetes.
Dean said there were always medical appointments with doctors that cycled through the North. One doctor, he said, suggested Angela was faking her symptoms.
“Sometimes it was so heartbreaking to go with her. She went through so many doctors and psychiatrists. They all changed her medications,” said Dean.
It wasn’t until Angela reached adulthood that she received concrete help, her family said, and stopped bouncing between the hospital and group homes.
The northern territory does not have a mental health or addictions treatment facility, and sends patients to centres in Edmonton and other southern cities.
That’s where Angela was heading before she went missing.
Kathy said she checked on Angela while she was still on the deck. Moments later she was gone.
She called the hospital where a nurse told her to wait until calling the police. Advice Kathy said she still regrets following.
“It was 1 a.m. She said wait a few hours maybe she’ll come back.”
But by morning Kathy said she went to the RCMP, who the family said did a house-to-house search.
“They did a fantastic job,” said Dean. “You guys have probably heard a lot of horror stories about the RCMP doing investigations. That’s not our case. You won’t hear any RCMP bashing.”
A coat believed to be Angela’s was found in the bush but Dean said RCMP refused to test it for DNA to confirm that. He said he offered to pay for a private lab to do the testing but police warned him the results wouldn’t be admissible in court.
Dean said he searched the area where the coat was found many times. As did police and teams of volunteers – once numbering as high as 250 people.
“They believe she’d taken off the jacket and walked away and died of hypothermia. I personally walked that area every day – all winter, all spring, all summer,” he said.
Still Angela has never been found and the family says it’s like living with a ghost.
“It’s just a big hole in our hearts she’s not here,” Kathy said. “I just wish we can find her.”
Commissioner Qajaq Robinson urged anyone with information about the case to come forward. Something no commissioner has done yet at these hearings.
“If you know something speak out,” she told the crowd gathered in a hotel banquet room.
Robinson explained that violence against women and girls isn’t only done with fists but can come through a denial of “fundamental” rights.