A Saskatchewan community came together Saturday for the funeral of two little girls who froze to death earlier this week, vowing to make sure their deaths lead to changes.
Kaydance Pauchay, 3, and her 15-month-old sister Santana died on the Yellow Quill First Nation after being left outside early Tuesday as the temperature dipped below minus-30, but felt closer to -50C with the wind chill.
One of their bodies was found Tuesday and the other Wednesday, 50 metres apart, several hours after their father says he left his house to go to one of his neighbours. The sisters were wearing just diapers and shirts when their father carried them across a field late at night.
Among the mourners at Saturday's private service was the girls' father, Christopher Pauchay. He arrived in an ambulance since he is still being treated in hospital for frostbite and hypothermia he suffered the night his daughters died.
It's still unclear why Pauchay, 25, ventured outside with the girls and how he became separated from them.
One of his brothers, Gary, said the young man is taking the incident very hard and doesn't talk about what happened that night.
"He just stares at me," Gary said.
The memorial service was private. RCMP officers stood outside the reserve entrance to enforce a media ban imposed by Chief Robert Whitehead at the request of family and the band's elders.
Also in attendance at the service was Saskatchewan's minister of First Nations, June Draude. As she drove away from the service in tears, Draude said the community seemed resolved to do things differently and improve the lives of those on the reserve.
She agreed that it was time for change and that all levels of government must support the community's desire for something good to come out of the loss of the two young girls.
The funeral followed a wake that began Friday and continued all night on the reserve.
The girls' mother, 21-year-old Tracey Jimmy, has also been attending the funeral ceremonies. She's about five months pregnant and is due to give birth later this spring.
The girls' deaths have cast an unwanted national spotlight on the small community east of Saskatoon. On Friday, the chief asked the media to stay away from the ceremony as a sign of respect.
"The funeral needs to happen, and that's something we don't want pictures taken of," Yellow Quill Chief Robert Whitehead said. "It's against our belief to have people take pictures of what we do in situations like that."
The deaths have raised concerns about broader issues on reserves across Canada, including unemployment, poverty and alcohol abuse.
RCMP say they're investigating the possibility that alcohol was a factor in the incident. Family members said Christopher had been drinking that night.
Whitehead has said he wants to talk about some of these issues, but not until the community has had an opportunity to deal with the tragedy.