Cindy Martin. The former teacher and advocate for Indigenous women went missing on the night of Dec. 23, 2018. There is currently a $10,000 for information leading to her discovery and safe return. (Photo courtesy of Sheridan Martin)

‘It’s a surreal existence’: family of missing Hazelton woman still searching for answers

There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Cindy Martin

Nine months later, Cindy Martin’s family is still searching for answers.

It’s been just over nine months since Cindy went missing on the night of Dec. 23, 2018.

She was last seen in New Hazelton.

Martin’s sister Sheridan said since the immediate searches in the aftermath of her sister’s disappearance there have been a number of community searches, all of which have been fruitless.

“We have absolutely no leads at all to go on, no pieces of clothing, absolutely nothing.”

One of the searchers also attempted aerial surveilance using a drone, which Sheridan said was also unsuccessful.

More recently, she said the family met with two investigators who work with the RCMP on cases surrounding missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in August.

“That was good, because it just felt like we were heard.”

The next step is for the investigators to co-ordinate with the police and loop the family in on any updates to the case.

After the initial disappearance, an RCMP media release said there was no suspicion of foul play.

Sheridan said it’s especially hard not knowing whether or not her baby sister is still alive.

“The word trauma doesn’t even begin to address what the family is going through,” she said.

“I can’t believe Cindy’s gone because I have not seen her. We haven’t had a funeral if she’s deceased. We haven’t — you know, she still could be alive.”

There is currently a $10,000 reward for information leading to Martin’s safe return.

Sheridan said there is a lot of angst and overthinking involved and she often catches herself thinking about what-if scenarios concerning her sister’s current situation.

A longtime supporter of MMIWG issues, Sheridan said it’s a cruel twist of fate she had previously marched in many of the Annual Women’s Memorial Marches for MMIWG held in Vancouver.

“I used to be right there singing and drumming with all the other women and now I’m a part of that, you know?

“It’s a surreal existence when you don’t know where your baby sister is at, you don’t know what happened to her … you don’t know if she’s alive or gone to the spirit world.”

Born in New Westminster, after finishing Grade 12 Martin began working in youth advocacy within the education sector in the Lower Mainland.

She then made the transition to the Vancouver School Board, where she worked with young Indigenous students.

“People still know who we’re talking about and we say Cindy — a lot of these students remember her.”

Eventually, wanting to live closer to her mom, Cindy moved back to Gitanmaax, where she worked as a mentor advocate for Indigineous women in the area.

Discussing the current statistics on MMIWG in Canada — officially estimated at around 2,000 — Sheridan said she believes it is closer to between 5,000 and 7,000.

“You times that by the amount of people in each family and there is so much trauma and so much heartbreak spread across Canada.

“It’s just surreal and I can understand why the need to address murdered and missing Indigenous women should be prevalent and should be at the top of the list of how can we go about stopping this atrocity.”

But Sheridan also pointed to a glimmer of hope in the bond that has been built between their family and other families who have shared the pain of MMIWG cases, notably the families of Ramona Wilson and Jessica Patrick, who also used the last name Balczer.

She said she thinks it is important that anyone who is dealing with this trauma doesn’t do so alone, whether that means going to family members or other individuals facing similar trauma for support.

“We’re understanding the depth of pain and trauma as a result … and we understand Ramona and Jessica’s families’ pain absolutely.”

But as the leaves of the Skeena begin to transition from a mild brass to a reddish blush and the nights become cold once again — a sign of the first winter to come since Cindy’s disappearance — Sheridan is still holding out hope.

“She could still be alive,” she says, repeating the phrase, almost as though it’s a mantra.

“She could still be alive.”

Anyone with information on Martin’s whereabouts is urged to contact their local police, or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). New Hazelton RCMP can be reached at 250-842-5244.

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