Nfld. & Labrador

Hundreds march in Stephenville to support murdered woman's family after killer paroled

Hundreds line streets for protest of parolee returning to Stephenville area.

Silent march followed by 'Sisters in Spirit Vigil'

Hundreds walked Main Street in Stephenville wearing red to protest the return of parolee, Robert Hilroy Legge, who murdered Ann Lucas of Stephenville in 2003. (Troy Turner/CBC)

It was called a "silent march for a safe community."

It was anything but silent, however, as the message, carried by a sea of hundreds in red clothing rang loud through the streets of Stephenville on Friday.

The march was to protest the release of Robert Hilroy Legge, a convicted murderer who took the life of his estranged partner, Ann Lucas, in 2003.

At the time of his sentencing, Legge was told he would not be eligible for parole for 18 years, but that changed in February when he was granted day parole. 

The Lions Club in Stephenville was draped in red dresses, a symbol of support for Indigenous women, and a quilt designed with patches remembering missing or murdered Indigenous women. (Troy Turner/CBC )

For the family of Ann Lucas, however, things took a far darker turn when he returned to the Stephenville area. The Parole Board of Canada authorized Legge to spend time away from his halfway house with visits to the Bay St. George area.

Friday's demonstration was meant to not only support Lucas's family, but also to send a message to the parole board that Legge is not welcome back in the area.

Tracy McIsaac is the niece of Ann Lucas, the woman murdered by Robert Hilroy Legge in 2003. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Sharon Williston of the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women's Network said there's a lot of backing for the Lucas family in their quest to have Legge stay away.

She said in the past two weeks, the swell of support has grown in leaps and there's a unified voice fighting Legge's return.

"We deserve better than this," she said. "The notion that someone who's been found guilty and has been given a life sentence is allowed to go out on parole and back in the community where the murder took place, [it is] unacceptable."

Following the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Williston said, it was clear that government agencies need to be allies to Indigenous women, such as Ann Lucas.

She said part of that is ensuring his parole conditions prohibit him from visiting the area.

"If they make this decision to allow [him] back, that's not being our ally," Williston said.

A drumming circle performs at the Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Friday night in Stephenville. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Tracy McIsaac, Ann Lucas's niece, hoped the message was clear. She said the community has made its thoughts known, and now it's up to the parole board to determine what conditions will be placed on Legge's release.

She also hopes the attention brought to this issue will educate others on what happens when criminals are let out on parole.

"People's eyes are opened now. I'm sure there are criminals walking around here and we don't know about it. Unless you register as a victim you're not going to know what's happening and they're not going to tell anybody in the community," McIsaac said.

"So this may be a little catalyst for some great change, I hope."

Supporters of the march carry signs driving home the message that the treatment of Indigenous women must improve. (Troy Turner, CBC)

Sisters in Spirit Vigil

Friday night's silent march was followed by a Sisters in Spirit Vigil, which remembered all missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

Amanda DeLodder says events such as these raise awareness of the treatment of Indigenous women.

"For too long it was being pushed to the side what was happening to our women, and the word keeps getting out, but action needs to be done — and this is an action," she said.

DeLodder said events such as these draw awareness to the hardship Indigenous women before her had to face, but also bring hope that things will improve for future generations of Indigenous women to come. 

Supporters of all ages take to the streets of Stephenville for the silent march. (Troy Turner/CBC )

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