Over half a year ago, the federal government launched an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women. The results of that inquiry have since been published, listing several recommendations for the government, police, and communities to start working towards fixing the issues which foster an unsafe atmosphere for indigenous women.
Today in Prince Albert, members of the community and surrounding First Nation communities walked together in memorial of missing and murdered Aboriginal men and women. Organized by the Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission, today marks the 12th time the memorial walk has taken place in Prince Albert.
“Today is about bringing awareness about what needs to be done, and the justice that needs to be served for these women,” Rebecca James, one of Danielle Nyland’s friends said. “(You see) a lot of support, people actually notice the difference. Every year you see more and more people coming from the city and joining in.”
The Nyland family had many supporters at the walk, each of them wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with her image and June 8, 2015, the day she was last seen alive. Nyland’s death has been called suspicious in nature by the RCMP.
Walking from city hall to the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Center, local missing or murdered women and men were honoured by their families at various landmarks around the city. A number of dignitaries from the Prince Albert Grand Council spoke about their personal experiences dealing with loss or tragedy, and spoke of how they hope to see the sad situation surrounding the murdered or missing men and women change. In the most recent numbers update from the RCMP in 2014, a total of 1,049 women were declared murdered with 175 still missing.
Terry Fontaine came all the way from Fort McMurray to walk in honour of his cousin Myrna Montgrand who went missing in 1979. Montgrand was last seen in the early morning hours in La Loche. She has never been found. Fontaine also said he is walking for Matthew Herman, a 22-year-old from La Loche who was stabbed to death in Saskatoon this past April.
“It’s very sad, he was trying to help out you know? Trying to do something good, and now he’s gone,” Fontaine said about Herman. “I pray for all the people who have been murdered, and the people all over the continent who have been murdered,” Fontaine said.
Fontaine is a residential school survivor who has worked hard to overcome his own personal struggles. He was born in La Loche, but was taken by his grandmother to live in Fort McMurray. For the last 50 years, he has called Fort McMurray home.
Michelle Burns, the twin sister of Monica Lee Burns, a Prince Albert woman who was found deceased on January 17, 2015 spoke in front of the Saskatchewan Court of the Queen’s Bench. She told her sisters story and described the struggles of waiting for the court system. The trial of her accused killer is set for December of this year.
“It is tough, it is hard dealing with the courts… We use these walks to help us though. You never get over it, you just get stronger. You use (the bad) and turn it into something good, to help another family out,” Burns said.
With the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women completed by the government, and promises of fulfilling the truth and reconciliation project’s recommendations, things are starting to change. However change is gradual, and there is still lots of work to be done before the problem of missing and murdered indigenous women can be called history in Canada. Walks like todays will continue to happen across the country to serve as a reminder of the changes that need to happen.
On Twitter, @BryanEneas
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