People hate to consider the arbitrary values they place on human life.
But society’s grim accounting is easy to chronicle.
First, consider the case of Angel Carlick.
The 19-year-old aboriginal woman has been missing for more than six weeks.
People console themselves with the fact she was once living on the street. That her home life was sketchy.
Perhaps it assuages their guilt.
But at the time of her disappearance, she had an apartment and a job. She was looking after her mother and considering adopting her younger brother.
She was days away from a significant graduation ceremony. And was, by all accounts, very excited about that.
But she missed that grad.
And she missed shifts at work, which is highly unusual because she was good about phoning her boss.
Her ID and clothes are still at the Blue Feather Youth Centre.
Two paycheques have not been collected.
Friends and family last saw her at a barbecue on May 27th.
Police confirmed talking to her on May 31st.
She has not been seen by anyone since.
She has, by all accounts, vanished from the face of the Earth.
It took police two weeks to declare her missing.
Since then, it’s difficult to assess what police have done to find her.
Last week, as volunteers took responsibility for searching the long-cold trail, we asked RCMP what efforts it had made to find her.
We were told there had been an extensive search. In fact, the RCMP had searched all the areas the volunteers were going to cover, we were told.
But Const. Marc Janus couldn’t say when. Or, precisely, where the RCMP had searched.
He didn’t have the file before him. Then a more important phone call came in and he hung up.
Compare that to the search for Regina Thyrone.
Thyrone, a 35-year-old temp working for the federal Justice department, was last seen on April 15th, 2000, in downtown Whitehorse.
She was in Whitehorse from Vancouver for two weeks. She failed to show up to work in Justice’s offices on April 17th.
She was reported missing immediately.
By April 20th, local RCMP had called on the Whitehorse district search-and-rescue teams for assistance.
Over the next 48 hours, more than 450 person hours were invested in the search.
Thyrone was found on April 21st near the clay cliffs at the south end of town.
By April 22, the search had started looking for evidence into her murder.
She’d been missing a total of six days.
So what’s the difference?
Carlick is local. Thyrone was visiting from Vancouver.
Was there some sense of obligation to a visitor? Or do we simply value our local women less?
Thyrone was 35. Carlick was 19.
Are we more ambivalent about our youth, and less so about middle-aged folks?
Both women had jobs.
Carlick once lived on the street and worked for a youth centre. Thyrone worked in an office surrounded by lawyers and other professionals.
So is class a factor?
Do we value youth-centre workers less than temps?
Both had concerned friends, employers and family who quickly reported them missing.
Thyrone was white and blonde. Carlick is dark-haired and aboriginal.
Is race a factor? Does society value aboriginal women less than whites?
What is it?
Why does one woman warrant mobilization of a 450-hour search within three days of being reported missing and the second get a shrug and a six-week lapse before an ad-hoc volunteer search was organized by friends and family and overseen by a single RCMP officer?
Sadly, these aren’t isolated cases.
Consider the lack of action towards the aboriginal women who have vanished along northern BC’s Highway of Tears.
Or the decades-long ambivalence toward more than 100 missing prostitutes, many of them poor or aboriginal — often both — who vanished in Vancouver before city police established its Missing Women’s Task Force.
Society assigns arbitrary values to human life.
And far too often it is women like Carlick that society deems spare change. (RM)