When Marlene Jack arrived in Smithers, B.C., on Monday she knew she wanted to speak about her missing sister, but wasn’t sure she’d be able to do so.
“I might be able to speak, I might not be able to, depending on… I don’t know,” she said outside her hotel.
Jack had flown in from Vancouver to testify at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. As the commission would hear, a fear of flying wasn’t the only hurdle Jack overcame to get there.
In 1989, Jack’s sister Doreen, along with Doreen’s husband Ronald and their two children, disappeared from Prince George. They’d been offered jobs in a work camp by a man Ronald met in a pub and left town with him, never to be seen again.
Jack said she was told if she spoke to media about the case, police would stop giving her updates on the investigation.
“I got scared,” she said. “That was their way of controlling me.”
Over the years she came into contact with the families of other missing or murdered women, and she joined them in advocating for a national inquiry.
Still, by the time testimony began Tuesday, Jack remained anxious.
“I’m so nervous, like… where do you sit?” she asked. “We’ll see. Tomorrow everything comes out about my sister.”
‘I feel ashamed of my life’
On Wednesday morning she sat before the commission and told not just Darlene’s story, but her own. She said one of her first memories was of a fight in her house when she was just three years old, followed by going to Lejac residential school in Fraser Lake.
There, Jack said, she learned to fear authority.
“Always telling us how we’re gonna be so useless. For seven years, every day we hear that,” she testified. “I still haven’t gotten over those… I feel ashamed of my life.”
Later, Jack spoke about men she didn’t know coming to their house looking for someone to have sex with, and how years afterward she stopped taking massage classes because she doesn’t like touching other people.
‘They tell you every day that you’ll amount to nothing, it sort of sticks with you.’
– Marlene Jack