Personal Profile: Darryl Contois

 Darryl Contois stands by the Red River at The Forks.

Darryl Contois stands by the Red River at The Forks.

Darryl Contois is a volunteer with Drag the Red, but he has been involved with searching for the missing and murdered since 1984. He lost a close family member who drowned when their boat flipped, and Darryl said they didn’t find their body until the spring.

 

He says he now gets involved to offer moral support to families. “Sometimes it’s hard because you don’t know anything about the person you’re searching for, until you actually meet with the family and hear stories about the loved one that’s gone.”

 

Darryl says he doesn’t recommend the searches for everybody. He echoed this sentiment when he spoke at the anthropology seminar earlier this summer. He talked to our group about the trauma of searching for a missing person, and the emotional toll of finding them.

 

This is something he knows first-hand. Last spring Darryl says his dreams pushed him to help with the search for Azraya Kokopenace, a 14-year-old girl who was missing near Kenora.

 

Darryl could not shake his dream. So, while volunteering with the Bear Clan, a friend offered to drive him to help search. With the support of family and friends, he got the $70 he needed to make the trip.

 

While searching with a group of people in a wooded area, including some of Azraya’s family members, he said he noticed a flying eagle. He lost sight of it, but kept walking, and soon found the body of Azraya.

 

“How I felt inside, I felt like crying,” says Darryl. “It really had an impact on my heart – somebody so beautiful to take her own life.”

 

Darryl brings these experiences of searching for missing and murdered people to his time with Drag the Red. He understands the hardships that families go through, and the importance of providing closure.

 

 A red ribbon tied around a tree at The Forks to symbolize Winnipeg's missing and murdered women.

A red ribbon tied around a tree at The Forks to symbolize Winnipeg's missing and murdered women.

 

“To put closure is the greatest gift of all – you give back something that they lost,” says Darryl. “You tend to bond with the family.”

 

This interview took place at The Forks and there was also a group of youths there. They were remembering our city’s missing and murdered women and girls, including Tina Fontaine, by painting grandmother rocks with red paint and tying red ribbons onto tree branches.

 

 A youth group honoured our missing and murdered women by painting rocks red at The Forks a few weeks ago.

A youth group honoured our missing and murdered women by painting rocks red at The Forks a few weeks ago.