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Victoria Merasty says her daughter’s motherly nature extended beyond family.
“Whenever you didn’t have a home, you didn’t have a place to stay, if she saw you and she knew you, she’d take you home,” Merasty said.
“She’s a beautiful person. She was kind.”
That daughter, Katie Sylvia Ballantyne, who friends and family called Sylvia, was the eldest of three sisters and three brothers, and was born in The Pas, Manitoba.
Her father was Greek and her mother is Opaskwayak Cree, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Family members say she loved outdoor cooking, eating wild food on picnics and she and her mother would fight over who got to eat the fish head for dinner.
As a teenager, Ballantyne was a cadet in Dundurn, Saskatchewan and eventually she had four children, whom she raised in Saskatoon.
Merasty says three years before Ballantyne was murdered, she moved to Alberta to keep a secret.
“She never wanted me to worry about anything,” Merasty said.
“That’s why she moved out of Saskatoon, ‘cause she didn’t want me to see her lifestyle.”
The Edmonton Journal says Ballantyne, 40, was addicted to crack cocaine and sold sex to pay dealers. When her kids travelled to see her, Merasty says they came home with stories about seeing their mother get beat up by the man who shared her home.
Merasty says it was Ballantyne’s way of life, not her indigenous identity, that influenced RCMP members’ attitudes as they investigated her homicide.
“I think all the murder cases of high-risk people, whether you’re white or whether you’re an Indian or whether you’re Spanish... You’re treated like scum,” she said.
“They don’t treat us of a high priority as of... a housewife that got killed, you know?”
One of Ballantyne’s friends reported her missing to the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) on May 5, 2003. She had seen her in the city eight days before that.
A farmer found what was left of her body in a field near Leduc, Alta. on July 7, 2003. The following month, the EPS investigated downtown Edmonton for four days. They put up posters and talked to people while trying to nail down a lead.
On Sept. 13, 2003 RCMP and community volunteers conducted a ground search, where they scavenged 160 square miles of eastern Leduc for evidence.
When asked if she would like to see a national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women, Merasty said “of course.”
More than a decade later, she has so many questions.
“Why did you kill her?” Merasty asks, as if speaking to her daughter’s murderer.
“Why didn’t you just let her go? Why do they have to kill all these girls, these kids? After they used them, let them go, you know? But they just kill them. They just kill them. They just kill them for no reason... They kill them like garbage. Some of them probably love a dog more than they love that human being they destroyed.”
She has one more question about what happened to Ballantyne:
“Who thought he was God to kill my daughter before her time?”
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.