A walk set for this morning in Prince Albert to remember missing or murdered Aboriginal women has become, for this year's event, 'Marlene's March' — to honour assault victim Marlene Bird who remains in hospital after suffering horrific injuries June 1.
Members of Bird's family, including her mother and daughters, will lead the walk. Bird is currently listed in stable condition and although she is no longer on life support, she is unable to speak. She is being treated in the burn unit of the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. Her family says more surgeries are expected.
Bird has already been through two amputations of parts of her lower limbs and was also treated for a severe facial laceration.
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According to Prince Albert police, she was discovered June 1 around 10:19 a.m. by a resident who was in a shopping centre parking lot picking bottles. Police have since been reviewing security video from downtown-area merchants as part of their investigation.
Family and friends have told CBC News that Bird led a transient life and sometimes stayed at the YWCA.
Thursday's walk will begin at 9 a.m. at City Hall and head northwest to the Provincial Courthouse, then south to the Margo Fournier Centre, then east to Central Avenue, then south to the Court of Queen’s Bench, continuing to Kinsmen Park and finally west to the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Gymnasium.
"It's just horrendous what happened," Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne told CBC News Wednesday. "It's on the top of everybody's mind, every day."
Dionne said he has known Bird for several years and described her as totally harmless.
"She was very pleasant to talk to," he said, recalling encounters with Bird from when he was a shopping mall manager. "I never had an incident with her."
Dionne also remembered how determined Bird was to live her own life and not stay in shelters or at the homes of family members.
"She really wanted her independence," he said. "And that is why it was hard to get her to live anywhere."
Dionne added that police are diligently pursuing leads and are purposely not releasing additional information about the case, as that could impair their detective work.
"That's just part of the investigative way," he said. "It's called hold-back evidence. You don't tell everything ... because that's how you catch people."
Dionne said he will take part in the walk and encouraged others to do so as well.
"Get out and march," he said. "Sometimes just numbers show the government that the public is getting antsy and they want answers."