Hear­ing their voices

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL -

The mis­sion of the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls is pretty sim­ple: to hon­our the lives and lega­cies of Indige­nous women, girls and mem­bers of the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der, queer and two-spirit com­mu­nity.

It has three main goals: Find­ing the truth. Hon­our­ing the truth. Giv­ing life to the truth as a path to heal­ing.

On Oct. 30, the fam­ily of Loretta Saun­ders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman orig­i­nally from Labrador, gave tes­ti­mony at the in­quiry hear­ings in Membertou, N.S.

Saun­ders was mur­dered in Hal­i­fax on Feb.

13, 2014 and her body was found dis­carded in a hockey bag on a high­way me­dian in New Brunswick on Feb. 26. She had been in a long-term re­la­tion­ship and was preg­nant.

She was killed in a dis­pute over rent money by a cou­ple who had sub­let a room in her apart­ment. After­wards they stole her car and bank card to en­able and fi­nance their at­tempt at es­cape.

As the agreed state­ment of facts from the killers’ trial showed, Saun­ders fought hard for her life, tear­ing through four plas­tic bags placed over her head dur­ing the strug­gle.

She had been study­ing crim­i­nol­ogy and plan­ning to write a the­sis on the topic of miss­ing and mur­dered indige­nous women, surely never dream­ing her name would make that list. She had al­ready over­come ob­sta­cles that many peo­ple spend a life­time wrestling with; she fought sub­stance abuse on the streets of Mon­treal af­ter years of teenage tur­moil, coped with the pain of the racism her par­ents and grand­par­ents had been sub­jected to in Labrador, and fin­ished three years of high school in just eight months af­ter she turned her life around.

In their tes­ti­mony, her fam­ily’s pride in her ac­com­plish­ments and all that she could have achieved was ev­i­dent. “She was quite the girl,” her fa­ther, Clay­ton Saun­ders, said.

“She wanted to help her peo­ple and she was on the path to do that,” said her sis­ter Delilah Saun­ders, who has also be­come a strong ad­vo­cate.

Loretta Saun­ders was an in­tel­li­gent, beloved, fiercely de­ter­mined, re­silient, pas­sion­ate, en­gaged and in­spir­ing ci­ti­zen, who wanted to ad­vo­cate for her peo­ple and make the world a bet­ter place.

This is her truth. Her fam­ily’s words at the in­quiry hon­oured that truth and shared it with the coun­try.

By pub­licly ac­knowl­edg­ing all that she was, all that she had to give, and the an­guish and in­jus­tice and enor­mity of their loss, it is hoped her fam­ily will find that their jour­ney of grief is also a path to heal­ing.

And that through this in­quiry, that path might be walked by us all.

It is be­cause of the gen­eros­ity and courage of fam­i­lies like the Saun­ders that the voices of those the in­quiry seeks to hon­our will never be si­lenced.

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