Nova Scotia

Delilah Saunders says continuing sister's work 'very important'

Delilah Saunders wants her sister to be remembered as more than a murder victim.

Blog, A Homicide Survivor's Journey Through Grief, details murder's aftermath

Delilah Saunders is writing a book about coping with the loss of her sister. (CBC)

Delilah Saunders wants her sister to be remembered as more than a murder victim.

Loretta Saunders was two months away from graduating from Saint Mary's University when she was murdered in her Halifax apartment. The Inuk woman from Labrador never got to finish her thesis about missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. 

It's important to shift the attention towards the issue as well as humanize the victims.- Delilah Saunders

"A lot of the work that I do, I think subconsciously I want my sister to be proud of me," Delilah Saunders says.

"At the end of the day I can't share my successes with her." 

After her sister died, Saunders started a blog called A Homicide Survivor's Journey Through Grief.

"I felt very alone," she explains. "I think bottling it up was definitely taking a toll on me and my life, my well-being." 

Writing about her experiences has been "extremely therapeutic" for her, and she finds that by sharing her stories she can "inspire others to speak out and take a stand against this issue."

Saunders says since creating Homicide Survivor, she has been connecting with people who have also lost loved ones to homicide.

Highway of Tears

"People have definitely reached out and felt inspired to be able to find that courage to be able to speak out," she says. "I have been in touch with a few women like Brenda Wilson, Ramona Wilson's sister."

Ramona Wilson was a 16-year-old indigenous woman who was murdered in 1994 while hitch-hiking near Smithers, B.C.

Wilson is featured in Matt Smiley's documentary, Highway of Tears. The film investigates the cases of 18 women who either disappeared or were murdered along a stretch of highway in northern B.C. between 1968 and 2011. Recently, Saunders has been collaborating with Smiley to organize screenings in Atlantic Canada.

For Saunders, being a part of the audience discussions after the screenings is crucial.

"There's definitely a dialogue that needs to be opened and kept going. So to be a part of that [is] very important to me," she explains.

Saunders was also involved in promoting the Halifax screenings of the film, the proceeds of which went toward one of three scholarship funds created in honour of her sister — the Loretta Saunders Community Scholarship Fund. 

Saunders says she and Smiley "really pushed" to show the film in Halifax on the same day that Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry went on trial for murder.

"I feel it's very important to shift the attention towards the issue as well as humanize the victims, to really focus on what positive things can come of this."

Saunders will be travelling across Canada and the United States with Smiley and the Highway of Tears crew. She's also writing a book about coping with the loss of her sister.

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