'She didn't deserve that': Heartbroken mother speaks at vigil for Rebecca Contois
Mourners call out the frequent disappearance and murder of Indigenous women
WARNING: This article contains disturbing details.
Family members from as far as Brandon, friends and members of the community turned out to remember the life of Rebecca Contois and to support her grieving mom at a vigil Wednesday evening.
It was a day after Winnipeg police confirmed that human remains found at the Brady Road landfill belonged to the 24-year-old woman.
"My heart's broken … I miss her," said Rebecca's mother, Maureen Contois.
"She was my daughter, she didn't deserve that," she said.
Contois was a member of Crane River First Nation and grew up in Winnipeg.
The call to remember other missing and murdered Indigenous women was echoed by those present.
WATCH | Vigil for Rebecca Contois:
Ojibwe grandmother Geraldine (Gramma) Shingoose, was one of the first to speak.
She spoke about the sacredness of women and in relation to Rebecca's death, she said "it's a sacred law that was broken." She encouraged everyone present to remember that there is spiritual justice.
"Hurting and and harming our women is not OK. It's going on too long," said Shingoose.
She said as many as five Indigenous women have gone missing within the last month and a half.
Many of those those gathered to support the family know what it's like because they also have lost daughters, sisters and friends, Shingoose said.
"There have been so many vigils," she said, while the those gathered listened in silence.
Strong community support
There was smudging, prayers, drumming and other rituals.
On a fence in the yard where the vigil was being held there were pictures of a smiling Contois from happier times, plastered on murals. In front of the murals, there was a pot filled with red roses.
As drummers in a circle beat their drums and sang traditional songs, the roses and candles were distributed to those present. The recipients then placed the rose and candle under Contois' picture and said prayers for her.
Darryl Contois, who is not directly related to the family, held the grieving mother while she struggled to speak.
"She lost her daughter and this is what we have left to do for her, to show her that her spirit is loved," he said.
"Let each day be a reminder that a loved one can be taken, and it needs to be stopped because this is what we do every day. Each week, each month, it's somebody's family."
Support is available for anyone affected by MMIWG or by the latest reports.
An independent, national, toll-free support call line is available 24 hours a day to provide support for anyone who requires assistance: 1-844-413-6649. The service is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Individuals can also access immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention services at the Hope for Wellness helpline by calling 1-855-242-3310 or online at www.hopeforwellness.ca.