Cortney Lake's family to mark her favourite time of year with Christmas tree lighting

The family of Cortney Lake will honour her memory with a special Christmas tree lighting on Thursday, as they continue to plan more searches.

Event will also shed light on issues around violence against women, aunt says

Cortney Lake, 24, has been missing since June 7. Her family has a special Christmas event planned for Thursday night to honour her favourite time of the year. (Aamie Gillam Photography)

Family members of Cortney Lake will honour her memory with a special Christmas tree lighting on Thursday, as they continue to plan more searches and try to shed light on the issue of violence against women.

The event will take place at St. David's Park in Mount Pearl starting at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday. 

The family will light up a tree with purple lights — Lake's favourite colour. It will remain illuminated for the rest of the holiday season.

There will also be hot chocolate served and carol singalongs, with an aim to make it a light-hearted and family friendly event.

Lake has been missing since June 7, and police have classified her disappearance as a homicide. Her family continues to search for her body.

In this childhood Christmas photo, Cortney Lake and her brother Colin are seen sitting by the Christmas tree. (Submitted by the Lake family)

Glenda Power, Lake's aunt, says the Thursday night event is meant to mark Lake's favourite season.

"When we look back over the past celebrations of Christmas in our family, Cortney was always the first person to have her tree up," Power told the St. John's Morning Show.

"We'll use it as an opportunity to honour her but also as a symbol of the profound impacts of violence against women."

Searchers have become a family

Power said the family and those helping with the search effort have grown quite close over the last five months, calling the group a "community" and "family".

She said the recent large-scale search near Bellevue gave the family some hope, but after turning up nothing they're back to the drawing board.

"To have that massive search in Bellevue turn up nothing was particularly devastating," she said. "Obviously police don't put that volume of effort in without some solid information, but we remain to be hopeful."

Glenda Power is Cortney Lake's aunt, and has acted as the spokesperson for the family since Lake went missing on June 7. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Lake has become a household name in Newfoundland and Labrador since her disappearance, and Power said Lake's story has resonated because the family has been front and centre telling her story.

"She has become everyone's daughter, everyone's sister and everyone's friend. And they feel like they know her even though they never met her."

Need for change

Hours before the 24-year-old mother of one was last seen, her former boyfriend Philip Smith was at provincial court in St. John's, where he pleaded guilty to assaulting her, distributing intimate images of her and breaching prior orders to stay away from her and her mom, Lisa Lake.  

Power said the system failed her neice, and that other recent stories in the news about violence against women that went unpunished show a systematic failure to protect women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We have a justice system that is skewed in favour of males who perpetrate violence and it's absolutely unacceptable and has to change," she said.

Power, like other women who have spoken to CBC News, takes issues with peace bonds — "pieces of paper" that have little effect on limiting a person with no regard for court orders, she said.

"If Philip Smith left court on June 7 with an anklet on him that tracked his movements, Cortney would not have died that night."

With files from St. John's Morning Show