Singers Janice, Christine, and Natasha sang the Women’s Warrior Song at the Annual August 14 Memorial. Kate Quinn
It was a lovely summer evening in the Alberta Avenue Community Garden on August 14th, the 20th time that CEASE gathered people to remember all those whose lives were taken through murder, suicide, addictions, or illness.
The Annual August 14 Memorial was first held in the year 2000. Edmonton hosted an international conference on sexual exploitation in 1999. There we learned that Calgary folks held an Annual Memorial spurred into action by the murder of 17-year-old Karen Lewis on August 14,1994. Her body was thrown into a dumpster. A young Edmonton woman was missing during the month of August, 1997 and her body was found in a farmer’s field August 31st, so the August date fit for Edmonton as well. Her killer has never been found. Ironically, the year 2000 was the last year that Calgarians gathered. Edmonton CEASE and Saskatoon EGADZ have kept the flame of remembrance going all these 20 years. The government of Saskatchewan now recognizes August 14th as an official day of mourning.
The program included prayers, smudging, poetry, and songs. Officers from RCMP KARE Counter Exploitation and EPS Human Trafficking and Exploitation lit candles. A person with lived experience of sexual exploitation and a family member who has lost a member shared their reflections.
Then came the reading of names, followed by a moment of silence for all those lost around the world. For some mourners, their grief is fresh with losses in the past few months. For others, their grief is softened by good memories of their friends or family members.
Dating back to the late 1960s, the list of names reached 224 this year. Sadly, the names of two young men who committed suicide were added that night.
Biodegradable balloons in the Cree colours of the Four Nations were released, a special moment as mourners gazed skyward.
Last year, one woman came in rough shape due to homelessness and addictions. She said if she died during the year, she knew she would be remembered at the next Memorial. The good news is that she came again this year. She has transitional housing and is working on a drug treatment plan.
Members of the Crosslife Ministry and friends who have a cycling group volunteered once again. They helped with setup, take-down, and providing water and pop. The Crosslife Ministry folks provided a BBQ meal for over 100 people. CEASE is grateful for all the community support that makes this Annual Memorial possible.
Kate is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).