Two men from Prince Albert are prepared to go the distance to help families in northern Saskatchewan coping with the loss of a loved one.
Conrad Burns and Pernell Ballantyne will walk from Saskatoon to Prince Albert, to spotlight the need for the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigneous Women (MMIW) to hold a hearing in northern Saskatchewan.
Burns said he got the idea for the campaign after attending the MMIW inquiry in Saskatoon.
"Going down there I realized a lot of [the northern families] weren't participating and I talked to them and they said they didn't have the opportunity, the inquiry didn't have enough time for them to be heard," Burns said.
"I tried to develop a letter campaign but it didn't go too far and I talked to a couple communities, put it on social media, but again it didn’t go far."
Although frustrated with the response he got, Burns decided to try an approach he had success with in the past; a walk. Burns has been involved in nearly a dozen awareness walks over the past few years.
"We're walking to support the families of those who have lost loves ones and we are also walking to encourage new information to come out about those who are still missing," Burns said.
Joining Burns on the walk will be Pernell Ballantyne, who is very familiar, unfortunately, with the suffering associated with losing a loved one. His younger sister Monica Lee Burns was murdered three years ago. Her body found on a snowmobile trail in the Rural Municipality of Buckland. Ballantyne said a crucial part of his own healing came from being able to have someone to talk to.
"It's been a good jouney and now I'm looking forward to helping other people," he said.
Ballantyne said his sister's death has been very hard on his family, and many of the family members, including Monica's twin sister Michelle, are still having difficulty.
"Sometimes they' are dealing with it in their own way by themselves, rather than with the family. I am here to help them if they want to talk about it," Ballantyne said.
The pair will leave Saskatoon on Friday at noon, starting at the MMIW memorial outside the Saskatoon police station. The walk will end at the north side of Prince Albert's Diefenbaker Bridge, symbolic of the need for northern hearings.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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