A message of hope, a call for action at vigil for Loretta Saunders in Halifax
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Participants in the Halifax vigil held for Loretta Saunders used the young woman’s own words to reinforce their call for government action to address violence against indigenous women.
“Our very own government is responsible for orchestrating the events and developing policies and practices that led to the marginalization of generations of my people,” read Saunders’ sister, Delilah Terriak, from Saunders’ thesis during the event at the Grand Parade Thursday night. “Perhaps forgiveness could be possible if the government were to accept responsibility and implement meaningful and effective strategies designed to correct the devastating impacts of colonization.”
A few dozen people, including Mayor Mike Savage and Deputy Mayor Darren Fisher joined in the event, one of several vigils held simultaneously across Canada.
Shivering in the teeth of a bitter wind, participants held candles, “No More Stolen Sisters Signs,” and pictures of Saunders, who was murdered in February.
Saunders was Inuk and was conducting her thesis at Saint Mary’s University on missing and murdered indigenous women.
After her death, supporters called on the federal government to conduct a national inquiry into the issue.
Kim Cahill of Amnesty International in Halifax told the crowd the calls have gone unanswered so far, but she remains hopeful.
“A lot of good people have come together because of this terrible situation,” she said. “People on the streets are actually talking about the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.”
Saunders’ thesis called on indigenous peoples to “take matters into their own hands” and break the cycle of addiction, abuse and dysfunction that she blamed on generations of colonization.
Inuk elder Sarah Anala said the tragedy of Saunders’ murder is compounded by the fact that Saunders was setting such a strong example.
“Young Inuit like Loretta would have the flame to pass to, to carry and to lead with,” said the residential school survivor. “Oh God, what a loss.”