Vigil for Loretta Saunders set for Thursday
When a vigil is held for Loretta Saunders Thursday night, similar events will be taking place simultaneously across Canada and in other countries.
The vigil, organized by community volunteers, will be held in St. John’s at St. Mary’s Anglican Church on Craigmillar Avenue beginning at 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Saunders was murdered in Halifax where she was attending St. Mary’s University. Her death has gripped people from coast to coast in outrage over violence against women.
Last week, the leaders of all three provincial political parties said they support a call for the federal government to launch an inquiry into the tragedy of missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country.
Saunders, 26, was from Happy Valley-Goose Bay and was researching missing and murdered aboriginal women for a thesis at St. Mary’s and was to graduate this spring. She was also three months pregnant.
Halifax police allege Saunders was killed Feb. 13, the day she was last seen at a Halifax apartment she subletted to the two people charged with her murder — Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28.
Saunders’ disappearance triggered a search and public appeals from her family for help in finding the young Inuk woman.
But her body was found Feb. 27 in a median off Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Moncton, N.B.
At Thursday’s vigil, Inuit elders Emma Reelis and Dina Winters will offer prayers and performers include the Eastern Owl Drum Group and the Inuit drum group Kilautiup Songuninga.
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Local singer Terry Rielly is the emcee and has written two songs for Saunders.
“Amazing Grace” will be sung in both Inuktitut and English.
Members of Saunders’ family and close friends are expected to attend.
Amelia Reimer, a women’s outreach worker with the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, which is helping co-ordinate the event, said people are welcome to bring their own battery-operated candles, but there will also be some at the door.
It’s hoped the event will help convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to call the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“There are a lot of people pulling for the same thing,” Reimer said. “We’re hoping for some positive effect on Ottawa.”
The Faceless Dolls project — which remembers missing and murdered women — will be on display and men can show their support for ending violence against women through the moose hide campaign, which offers a lapel decoration.
As well, a scholarship fund has been set up in Saunders’ name by Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, and Darryl Leroux, assistant professor at Saint Mary’s University, to raise money for indigenous women attenting university in Atlantic Canada.