'We lost a huge champion': Community mourns death of MMIWG2S advocate, co-founder of Drag the Red

Community members are mourning the death of Drag the Red co-founder Kyle Kematch, who is being remembered as a tireless advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and their families.

Bernadette Smith, MLA for Point Douglas, said she was told by family on Friday that Kematch had died. She and Kematch had been among the co-founders of Drag the Red.

The grassroots group was started following the 2014 death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine. The group searches Winnipeg rivers for the remains of missing people or other clues which may help investigators.

Had it not been for Kematch, Smith said Drag the Red would probably never have been started.

"Kyle was the one who – when I put it on social media – said, 'Let's do it, the police aren't going to do it. Let's just do it,'" she said. "Had he not said that, we probably wouldn't have been here 13 years later dragging this river, helping to give families hope and bringing community together."

Smith said Kematch's sister Amber Guiboche went missing on Nov. 15, 2010, and in the years since he had never stopped searching for her and raising awareness about her case.

But through his own grief, Smith said Kematch supported other families and brought awareness to their stories, and would be there to help search when someone went missing.

He did not stop in Winnipeg. Smith said Kematch would travel to Ottawa to advocate on behalf of missing and murdered women, girls and two-spirited people, pushing for safety plans to be created across the country.

"Kyle was a person who gave of himself and I would encourage others in his legacy and in his honour to continue that work, to continue to provide that support to Drag the Red, but also to families and continuing to raise awareness around this issue," Smith said.

"We lost a huge champion and Kyle will be missed. He is never going to be forgotten, he's left a legacy in the work he has done here."