Families of missing Sask. Indigenous women help each other heal at awareness walk

Brian Gallagher glances at a wooden walking stick he was just gifted.

On it, there are a few photos, with feathers and ribbon draping down the side, and mementos like a soccer keychain. He thinks about what his family will add to tell the story of his missing daughter, and says maybe something to show her athleticism or love for cooking.

The walking stick is being passed on between families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), as well as men, at an annual awareness walk in Prince Albert. At a gathering before the walk, the family of Ashley Morin passed the stick on to the family of Meghan Gallagher.

“There are other people with mementos and things of interest that tell the stories of some of the people we’ll be walking with,” said Brian.

The annual walk took place on Thursday, as part of a two-day event hosted by the Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission.

The walk aims to bring affected families together to heal. And although this is their first, Meghan’s parents said they already feel a sense of comfort, being around others in similar situations.

“When people say ‘We know how you feel,’ they know. We’re hoping that it’s going to be healing, we’ll gain strength from others,” said Meghan’s mom, Debbie.

Gallagher, 30, was last seen on Sept. 19, 2020 in Saskatoon. In January, Saskatoon police said they’re investigating her disappearance as a homicide.

The photo of Meghan plastered on billboards, posters and T-shirts was taken the day before she was last seen in her parent’s backyard, according to Brian.

“It was one of those days that you have to remember, and we found out a little while later that she was missing,” he said.

“If there’s an awareness message that we can get out there, the more that things are talked about, the more chance there is for healing and a better chance there is for building stronger communities.”

The walk was also emotional for the family of Ashley Morin, who went missing on July 10, 2018 in North Battleford. She was 31 years old.

Her family is preparing for their own annual walk this weekend from Saskatoon to North Battleford. The family’s spokesperson, Krista Fox, is also planning a walk across Canada starting in February.

Fox said the most important part of the walks is connecting with other families of missing people.

“Nobody understands. Nobody gets it more than another mother who's hurting in that situation, another sister,” she said.

As a family friend, Fox said she won’t ever be able to comprehend the pain of Morin’s parents and siblings.

“I spend lots of time with the family and I get it, but I don’t understand – and hopefully I never have to.”

Fox said the family struggles every day without knowing where Morin is, but that it hits differently coming up on the third anniversary of her disappearance.

“There aren’t words. Hurt, pain – unmeasurable pain – anger. We’re three years in. We didn’t want to be here in the first place. We didn’t want the first year to pass, the second and now on to the third,” she said.

She encouraged anyone who has information on missing person files to contact police, and Meghan’s mom made the same plea.

“Speak up if you know something,” said Debbie.

“Stop hiding behind silence.”