HALIFAX - To many, 871 is just a number.
To others, it represents the 871 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
A roundtable was hosted by the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association in conjunction with Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law on Wednesday to establish a legacy for Loretta Saunders and other missing and murdered aboriginal women, as well as recognize the challenges faced by aboriginal women who are still with us.
They don’t want to see that number become 872.
“We are not going to put up with it anymore. [It’s] totally unacceptable and not one more woman should go missing or murdered. Not in this 21st century,” said Jeannie Baldwin, executive vice president for the atlantic region of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Saunders, an Inuit woman from Labrador, was a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and focused her studies on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
She disappeared from Halifax on Feb. 13.
On Feb. 27, Blake Leggette, 26, and Victoria Henneberry, 28, were charged with first-degree murder after Saunders’ body was found in a wooded area off the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick.
Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said they want public awareness of the challenges young aboriginal girls have to face, especially to get to university.
“Loretta in her young life had overcome a lot of those socio-economic factors that are against our people,” Maloney said.
For this reason, a large part of their work will be education-oriented, including the creation of a scholarship indigenous women can apply for to attend a university in the Atlantic provinces.
So far, they’ve raised over $40,000.
To contribute, people can make a cheque out to the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia for the Loretta Saunders Scholarship Fund.