Family and friends of Conne River woman honour her through red dress photo shoot

Sixteen Indigenous women from the Conne River area recently took part in a photo shoot to honour the memory of Chantel John, who was allegedly murdered by her ex-partner in 2019. (Angelina Francis - image credit)
Sixteen Indigenous women from the Conne River area recently took part in a photo shoot to honour the memory of Chantel John, who was allegedly murdered by her ex-partner in 2019. (Angelina Francis - image credit)
Angelina Francis
Angelina Francis

The cousin of a Conne River woman who was killed outside her home four years ago is honouring her with a photo shoot this week to continue her story and call for justice.

Chantel John was allegedly killed by her ex-partner, Kirk Keeping, in January 2019. Tributes and memorials have been held in the years that followed, but John's family is still awaiting a criminal trial.

Angelina Francis remembers her cousin as a caring soul who loved to be with family and friends.

"She was like my shadow. She followed me everywhere, and she was always by my side," Francis told CBC Radio's Weekend AM on Saturday.

"She was very curious growing up, always asking questions, always had a love of animals. And she was just my family."

Francis said she wanted to honour John through a photo shoot involving Indigenous women for years, and finally got the chance to do so earlier this month. The photos were released on Jan. 9, the four-year anniversary of John's death.

Sixteen women from Conne River and neighbouring communities took part, wearing red dresses and painted hands over their mouths, which symbolize missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

"Her passing impacted people right across Canada. People as far as Vancouver had red dresses hung on the day that she was pronounced deceased," Francis said.

Angelina Francis
Angelina Francis

"The support that I had in my community, even the neighbouring community … most of those people knew Chantel personally, which was even more exciting to do it."

John's adopted parents were also part of the photo shoot, which included an honour song played on a hand drum.

LISTEN | Heather Barrett's full conversation with Angelina Francis on Weekend AM:

"You can feel the energy up through your feet while you're doing this, because you knew you were there for a purpose," Francis said.

"The feeling was amazing, I have goosebumps talking about it. It was a very emotional time."

While the family waits for a criminal trial to begin, Francis hopes the photo shoot can keep John, and the stories of other missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, in the forefront.

"This happens right across Canada, and people just tend to forget about it," she said.

"We're still here. We're still waiting.…We're going to look for justice and keep her memory alive any way that we can."

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