Chantel John remembered at ceremony in Glenwood marking anniversary of her death

A red dress was hung in Glenwood, N.L., on Wednesday afternoon, marking one year of missing and remembering Chantel John.

Representatives of the Qalipu First Nation and the Glenwood Mi'kmaq First Nation held a small remembrance ceremony outside the Qalipu offices, singing the Mi'kmaq Honour Song and Strong Women's Song to mark the anniversary of John's death.

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Organizers said they want to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous women, and help young people know that there are resources available to them.

"Not only awareness, but justice is still needed," said Marie Vaters, chief of the Glenwood First Nation. Vaters prepared remarks for the ceremony, urging people to seek help if they are in dangerous relationships.

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"Every day you turn on the news and girls are missing, something is happening," she said. "And the progress is slow, justice is just not happening for them as fast as it should be. So our being here today is to bring awareness and to not let it die."

John's ex-boyfriend, Kirk Keeping, is accused of killing her in Conne River on Jan. 9, 2019. He was committed Tuesday to stand trial for first-degree murder.

Vaters says John's loss has been felt across the province. She helped organize a memorial service in the days following John's death, and says she hopes the services continue into the future.

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"It is something that needs to be continued to bring awareness of what's happening with our indigenous women all across Canada." 

Last week, the Miawpukek First Nation held a ceremony inaugurating the Chantel John Memorial Park. John, 28, was an animal lover and had several pet dogs. Colleen Lambert, Miawpukek First Nation's tourism, culture and recreation manager, told CBC News last week that the park is a great fit to remember a young women with love for animals and the environment.

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Vaters says many in her community are close to and related to residents of the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River — her own grandparents were born in Conne River before moving to the area.

The Glenwood First Nation was one of the founding groups of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians — which went on to create the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation.

"This is very, very close to home for us," Vaters said.

Miawpukek Mi'kamawey Mawi'omi/Facebook

Lynda Langdon, president of the Exploits Native Women's Association, said she saw some new faces in the small group this year — which means the message is spreading.

"Word is getting out there, right? And the women are getting more empowered," she said.

She said she wanted people to leave the event with a sense of support.

"They are not alone. They can always talk to someone, and that's part of the first step, that you're not alone and there's always someone there that either has gone through it or is willing to help someone go through it. To talk."

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