After murders, questions linger

The remains of Kam Mcleod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, were discovered near York Landing, Manitoba.

After a two-week manhunt, covering all four western provinces and involving dozens of volunteers, RCMP, and CAF members, the suspects were tracked down in the Canadian Shield.

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Due to their apparent suicides by gunshot at point blank range, we may never know why they allegedly murdered Chynna Deese, Lucas Fowler, and Prof. Leonard Dyck.

The grisly details of the case are internationally known.

Deese and Fowler were road tripping across Canada in an older vehicle, which broke down near Liard, in northern B.C.

Their bodies were discovered on July 16 in the ditch next to their vehicle, despite reports the couple was happy and healthy 24 hours before.

Then the suspects' burned out Dodge truck was found south of Dease Lake, with Prof. Dyck's body laying close by and his Rav4 missing.

The torched vehicle and stolen SUV suggested that the three deaths were linked.

The connection to the suspects was made after the destroyed truck was traced, leading to a call for any information regarding the location of Mcleod and Schmegelsky.

Tips began to pour into local detachments and the national office of the RCMP, a clear pattern slowly emerging: the two desperate fugitives had made a hard turn east, fleeing along northern roads towards Manitoba.

Sleepy and obscure towns were suddenly flooded with strangers.

On the west coast, media began asking probing questions about the suspects' history in their hometown of Port Alberni, and in the Shield, York Landing and Gillam were canvassed by uniforms and citizens.

This case drew global attention, as Deese was an American and Fowler an Australian, as well as the son of a police chief.

Our age of social media has also had an international impact, as the P.G. Citizen made clear on Aug. 11, with a piece from the Canadian Press: "Homicide victim's sister accuses fugitive's dad of refusing to take responsibility" via Facebook.

Alan Schmegelsky, Bryer's father, has stated that a broken system and past altercations with authority shaped his son's dark path, concluding, "he's on a suicide mission. He wants the pain to end."

There isn't space here to test this premise, but it exemplifies the chasm between Canadian and American Gestalts, as the discussions in both traditional and social media have centred on questions of resignation to forces beyond our control versus individual culpability.

Indeed, when the life-rights to this gruesome tale are finally purchased, the novel and film will hinge on the ironic interplay between the fatalistic concept CanLit has coined "survival" and the wider, Western ideal of protagonists/antagonists' choices leading to their pursuit and death.

Politicizing victims or suspects is unforgivable - the mourning that is ongoing requires reverence from even we in the chattering classes.

However, when the investigation has ended and the full report is made available, questions must be asked about the vulnerability of the victims to their attackers.

Clearly Canada is not the friendly, safe place we project to the world; our parks prescribe methods of self-defence against four legged predators but what about two-legged ones?

Lastly, while all involved in tracking down the suspects acquitted themselves admirably, it begs the question why resources are so lacking on the Highway of Tears?

These murderers turned their violence on themselves as justice was closing in so might not overwhelming forces of pursuit also discourage monsters on Highway 16?

If we refuse to alleviate the conditions leading to the missing and murdered, can't we at least hunt down and capture the perpetrators swiftly?

It is cold comfort to the victims' families that Mcleod and Schmegelsky will never hurt anyone again.

We would do well to heed the lesson that Canada is still a wild, dangerous land.

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