Vigil for Loretta Saunders

purple candleI did not know Loretta Saunders, the 26 year old Inuk woman who was writing a thesis on the issue of missing & murdered Aboriginal woman, and who, in a cruel twist of irony, became a “case” she might have chosen to write about.

I do not know her family, her community, or anyone at the university where she was studying.

I am not, even, in spite of my rather misleading-to-many last name, Aboriginal.

And none of that matters at all.

I care. I grieve. And my heart breaks for her family, for those who loved her, and for Canada.

We Canadians pride ourselves on living in one of best countries in the world….

and yet we live in a country where Aboriginal women are regarded as disposable…. used, abused, and left lying alongside our highwaysor worse.

yes, others – both women and men, and even children, fall victim to violence as well… but no other group is as over-represented, statistically, as Aboriginal women in Canada.

Over-represented among the missing… murdered…abused… incarcerated…

it sickens me.

It especially sickens me that Canadians, and especially our current Federal government, don’t seem to care. Not in the slightest.

Helen Betty Osborne died in 1971 – and little has changed since. The bodies of Aboriginal women still, more than 30 years later, continue to be regarded as fair game.

There is this notion that the numbers are so high because “those women” engage in high risk activities…. they ask to be used…abused…murdered? Seriously? Is THAT our position, Canada?

Helen Betty Osborne was not engaged in prostitution or drug use in 1971 – and guess what? Neither was Loretta Saunders in 2014.

Many of the missing & murdered in Canada also were not – and guess what? Even the ones that were were people… moms, sisters, daughters, aunties…women. Human. People…. and oh yeah… Canadian. They loved and were loved. They were PEOPLE, dammit!

To suggest that we do not have a problem is ridiculous.

We have a huge problem here, right here, in Canada.

And we have a Prime Minister who said, during The Apology for residential schools, that

“There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever again prevail”

and yet, he continues to condone, and demonstrate, exactly those attitudes.

I went to a vigil for Loretta Saunders yesterday afternoon.

I attended. I socialized. I held a candle and listened to the words, the music, the pain…

I saw the posters. So many missing and murdered Aboriginal women…. so many.

But what really REALLY spoke to me… broke my heart…was the little girl. So pretty. So innocent. So busy.

She played Candy Crush.

Played with balloons.



Hooked arms with others in the circle.

How is it reasonable that that child has more than 10x the chance of becoming a statistic than my child… or yours?

No, a national inquiry is not the answer.

It should not, in my opinion, even be necessary.

The work that the Sisters in Spirit Initiative was doing was amazing… they collected, and analysed, so much data…and had they been allowed to continue doing their work, I have no doubt that we would now be on the path to ensuring that the problem of missing & murdered Aboriginal women in Canada would be addressed.

But the Harper government did not allow that to happen.

In fact, what they have allowed to happen is captured in a recent press release from NWAC:

Just in the past six months, NWAC has noted that at least eight Aboriginal women have been murdered. “These statistics should raise the alarm for all Canadians,” stated President, Michèle Audette.  Much too frequently, somewhere in Canada, families feel the pain and loss of a loved one who has been a victim of violence. This happens way too often for our Aboriginal people, and to the most vulnerable in our society, the women and girls.”

On behalf of NWAC, President Audette would like to publicly express heartfelt sympathies to the families who have suffered recent losses under such horrible circumstances:

Goforth, Kelly Nicole: 21 year old woman found on September 25, 2013 in Regina, SK;

Ballantyne, Heather: 40 year old woman found on October 29, 2013 in Pellican Narrows, SK;

Desjarlais, Cassandra Joan: 24 year old woman October 31, 2013 in Regina, SK

McKinney, Miranda: 50-year-old woman found on November 3, 2013, from Swan Lake,  MB

Roberts, Jodi: 24 year old woman found on November 27, 2013 near Sucker River, SK;

Boisvert, Tricia: 36 year old woman found on January 23, 2014 near Quyon, QC;

Gabriel, Rocelyn: 20 year old woman found on January 26, 2014 in Portage la Prairie, MB;

•Saunders, Loretta, 26 year old found on February 26, 2014 near Salisbury, NB.

Why is it that Loretta Saunders is the only one of these that seems to have captured the media’s – and Canada’s – attention? Perhaps it is because of her thesis topic? I hope so, but honestly I think not… but that is a topic for another day, perhaps.

In any case, at this point, a National Inquiry seems like the only viable option.

Please join the NDP, Amnesty International, NWAC, and many Aboriginal groups, in the call for a National Inquiry into Missing & Murdered Women.

Write letters. Sign the petition. Go to vigils and marches.

Oh Canada. We can do better. We must do better.




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3 Responses to Vigil for Loretta Saunders

  1. Ralph Webber says:

    First Deepest Condolences to the families and loved ones for your loss of a Precious Woman of Labrador The Late Loretta Saunders and her late Unborn child of three months.. Blessed are those that mourn for they will be comforted.

    I am sickened of this senseless act, Too much of this happens to Indigenous Women for too long and has to stop Immediately. There needs to be a Public Inquiry and it has to address acknowledge this senseless acts of taking lives of the innocent. Please let not her name go in vain, Let the Legacy of Loretta Saunders be one of hope as she was striving to create hope for all the Indigenous Women of Canada even Women period,

    Loretta Saunders believed in helping those who are in need of hope. Let this be addressed so they CAN get the help that Loretta was working to make manifested so Change can be brought forth and Hope is restored.

    Ralph Webber

  2. Diane Yetman says:

    Great! Way to take the bull by its horns and make change happen. Hats off! Bravo! You just don’t talk the talk. Thank you for women all over Canada. Godbless

  3. Pingback: International Women’s Day | Simcoe North NDP

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