Walk to call for justice in deaths of Little Red River Cree Nation teen, woman

A group calling for justice will walk 127 kilometres across northern Alberta over six days to draw attention to the deaths of a woman and a teenage girl from Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta.

Velma Laboucan is organizing the walk to honour Malena Loonskin and Roderica Ribbonleg.

Loonskin was 26 when she was killed in 2014. The body of Ribbonleg, 15, was discovered July 12 of this year in a forested area near John D’Or Prairie, Alta., about 750 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

“The walk is about missing and murdered Indigenous women, and how it affects our communities,” Laboucan said. “We’re just trying to get justice.”

Starting at John D’Or Prairie on Sept. 30, the group plans to cover 25 kilometres per day before arriving at the courthouse in High Level on Oct. 5.

The arrival will coincide with the next court date for Jason Alec Tallcree, 35, who is charged with first-degree murder in Ribbonleg’s death.

Laboucan said the group wants to make the community’s feelings about the case known.

Tallcree was previously charged with second-degree murder in the death of Loonskin, who Laboucan said was his common-law partner at the time.

That case was stayed in 2014 when prosecutors determined there was no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction, according to Alberta Justice.

Organizers of a six day walk across northern Alberta from John D’Or Prairie to High Level hope to raise awareness as they call for justice in the deaths of Little Red River Cree Nation members Roderica Ribbonleg and Malena Loonskin. (Velma Laboucan.)

Laboucan said honouring Loonskin in the upcoming walk was important because Loonskin’s family said there wasn’t a community event like a walk after her death.

Laboucan said it’s clear to her that Loonskin’s mother hasn’t found peace in the years since her daughter died. The two women are cousins and have spoken about the walk for justice.

“I could just feel the pain, the fear, in her voice,” Laboucan said.

The walk won’t be limited to members of Red River Cree Nation.

Laboucan said people from other northern communities have registered to join, and that representatives of the  Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women will also attend.

Others are welcome, she said. Participants will be divided into groups and will walk in two shifts until they reach the courthouse.

“It’s hard for the community. Not just the [families] but the whole community.

“We will be outside the building,” she said. “They will know.”

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