Vigils are taking place in 17 cities, and as far away as Norway, on Thursday March 27 for Loretta Saunders, an Inuk university student who was murdered in February and left beside a snowy highway in New Brunswick.
A scholarship is also being established in her honor, according to Darryl Leroux, who was Saunders’s thesis advisor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Saunders was researching the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, focusing on three cases in particular, when she was killed.
Vigils are taking place in Calgary, ?Ottawa, ?Halifax, ?Moncton, ?Wabush; Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where the 26-year-old Saunders was from; Thunder Bay, ?Montréal, ?Sherbrooke, ?Fredericton, ?St. John's, ?Makkovik, ?Postville, ?Sydney, Nova Scotia; and in ?Kenora, ?Labrador City, ?Tofino, British Columbia and ?Oslo, Norway, according to the Facebook page Nationwide Vigil in Honour of Loretta Saunders/Call to Action on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls.
The vigil is also doubling as a renewed call for an inquiry into why indigenous women suffer violence at a rate much higher than the population at large.
“People are really up in arms, we’re not standing for it anymore,” said Carmen Adams, co-organizer of the Halifax vigil, to the Cape Breton Post. “We don’t know who’s next. It could be anybody.”
“In her honour, let's send a strong and loud message to governmental officials and all Canadians that we will not stand silent and allow this violence to continue,” the organizers stated on the event’s Facebook page.
Perhaps no one said it more eloquently than Saunders herself, in this excerpt from her research posted on the vigil’s Facebook page by Leroux and Saunders’s sister, Delilah.
“Despite feeling hesitant at times, I refuse to remain quiet, feel ashamed and embarrassed about the struggles and hardships that were strategically developed and designed for me through colonial practices and policies as well as societal norms that emerged as part of the colonizers plan to assimilate and eliminate Indigenous peoples,” Saunders wrote. “I refuse to allow my past dictate my future and define who I am.”
The scholarship, launched by the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, has raised $6,000 from 50 donors and donor families in its first two weeks, Leroux said. The money will enable indigenous women to study in Atlantic Canada.
“In order to maintain a scholarship or bursary into the future, we need a minimum of $25,000,” Leroux said in an e-mailed message. “Donate as little as $5 as an individual, organize a fundraiser among your friends or in your communities and/or ask your employer, union or university to donate to the fund.”
More information on donating to the scholarship fund can be found on the vigil’s Facebook page.