Been There Done That

Thoughts on the Shanna Poissant disappearance

A young girl goes missing in the Eastern Townships. Police respond and begin searching for clues. Initial fears of a runaway are soon dismissed. Police soon lean to the possibility that they are looking for a corps. The girl’s family is frantic. They appeal to the public. They don’t want a body, they want their daughter back. Rumors begin to flow: The girl may have been at a drug party, she may have overdosed – “friends” dumped her body in a nearby forest. The family becomes more frantic, more frustrated – police are being uncooperative.

This is not my story, but my story retold in chilling parallel twenty-six years later in the community of Hemmingford, Quebec. The victim is Shanna Poissant who has not been seen since July 11th when she left her home to visit some friends. But more disturbing than any comparisons to the murder of my sister is the heavy reality that these types of incidents happen all the time, and seem to unfold with the same predictability, more often than not ending with the same heart-breaking conclusion.

If you think I’m going to use this opportunity to advance my personal agenda on justice and law enforcement, you’re dead wrong. The fact is I don’t feel I have anything original to contribute to the discussion. After all this time you’d think I’d have some wisdom to offer, but I don’t. The disappearance of Shanna Poissant leaves me feeling empty, hurt and helpless to offer any constructive contribution other than to express my sincere empathy for her family; I hope this pain will subside soon (though I know it won’t).

Some of us in the victims community in Quebec (you know who they are) have been discussing this event, and how we might best help the family. But many of us – even though we too have been touched by similar tragedy – are at a loss to come up with answers. The family at this point is obviously overwhelmed – it would be intrusive to enter at this point – but do we leave Tammy Geraw alone in her pain?

Shanna Poissant

I saw Ms. Geraw on television making her desperate appeal, “I just want my daughter back; I want her to be found alive… Shanna, if you’re out there, please call me and let me know where you are.” It made me think how much the world has changed. Twenty-years-ago my parents wouldn’t have dared to show such raw emotion to the public. It just wasn’t done (although they certainly felt the same way). And though I am impressed with all the media attention this case is attracting (an iota of this would have helped Theresa immensely), I somehow feel that we are spectators to an event that should be off-limits (some things should not be seen).

Which brings us to the police ( my old friends, the Surete du Quebec) and some reports that they are not communicating with the family. From the victim’s point of view, yes, you are hungry for information, you want any thread that my draw this thing to a close. However it would be irresponsible for police to disclose every tip they receive – more than half of it is junk; it can drive a person paranoid and insane. And (again) though the “runaway” hypothesis always seems like a copout (pardon the pun), let us not forget the saga of Julie Bureau who disappeared for three years from Sherbrooke, then turned up very much alive shopping for groceries in a Townships market. The Bureau effect, unfortunately, may now lead investigators to be overly cautious in missing persons cases (just when we need them to be proactive and expedient).

I wish for a quick resolution to this affair. I hope Shanna Poissant is found soon. When she is found, I hope the community of Hemmingford will be kind and comforting to the family.


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