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Vigil for Loretta Saunders sounds call for federal inquiry

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Canadians care about missing and murdered aboriginal women, such as Loretta Saunders, but does the government?

It was a question asked repeatedly by speakers at a vigil held for Saunders at noon on Parliament Hill Wednesday. Saunders, 26, was reported missing in Halifax on Feb. 13. Police found her body in New Brunswick on Feb. 26. She was a student at Saint Mary’s University working on a thesis about the disproportionate number of disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women compared to the rest of the Canadian population.

“We’ve come together today to say it’s not just about one woman like our beloved Loretta nor even 10 nor 50 nor 100, but 800 of our women are gone,” said her cousin Holly Jarret, her voice quaking with emotion as she stood on the steps of the parliament buildings. “We won’t stop, nor can we until we find out what happened.”

Jarret and others hammered home that Aboriginal victims of violence are just as loved and cherished as any Canadian and play central roles in their families.

The day before her cousin’s body was discovered, Jarret told the crowd she re-connected with her own mother because, Loretta’s mother had called her.

“She explained that we’re a family and Lorretta knew my mom and I didn’t talk and she would be very happy when she came home to know that such a good thing had come from her being missing. I’ve talked to my mom every day since.”

Nova Scotia Native Women's Association president Cheryl Maloney said she’d been buoyed by the outpouring of support for Saunders’ family from the community in Halifax and from people across the country, but she questioned the government’s commitment to tackling the problem, because it has resisted calls for an inquiry. Maloney said many people had approached her asking who would complete Saunder’s thesis and if they can help.

“Maybe it wasn't up to one person to finish Loretta's thesis,” she said. “Maybe it was up to all of us as Canadians.”

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