With tears in their eyes and gratitude in their hearts, Conrad Burns and Pernell Ballantyne were cloaked with Star Blankets from the PAGC Women’s Commission on Sunday.
The two men walked from Saskatoon to Prince Albert over the weekend to highlight the need for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) inquiry to hold hearings in Prince Albert.
Ballantyne lost his sister Monica Burns three years ago. He said his sister was in his thoughts along the walk and on the stage at the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre Sunday night, during a rally in support of Colten Boushie and his family.
"I walked this road three years ago and I will walk it again and again and again … as long as we get that justice,” he said, holding back tears. “I know, with my sister … the justice system failed her. The justice system failed Colten Boushie. It means so much or me and for my people to rise up. Let’s be strong as a nation.”
Burns played a role in spearheading the walk following his attendance of the MMIWG hearings in Saskatoon and witnessing the lack of northern families. He embarked on various campaigns to raise awareness about the issue, but had little success. Frustrated, Burns said he fell back on a successful approach from the past: a walk.
“My heart is trembling with gratitude,” he said after receiving the blanket. “I walked this weekend for our sisters, for our mother, for our aunties and for our children, in hopes that they never go missing.”
Burns said there are countless “cracks in the system” where First Nations families fall through. Burns said those cracks need to be “filled with love and support.”
“This walk is there to engage all governments and encourage them to support our sisters,” he said. “I know this walk isn’t done. Our work for our community, for our people, for our nation is not done.”
He said now is the time for Indigenous communities to move forward as “a powerful and sovereign nation built on the love and foundation of our ancestors.”
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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