Annual Day of Mourning marks 20 years honouring those lost to the sex trade
- Andrea Ledding | August 12, 2019
“We do this every year to mourn the victims who have lost their lives to the sex trade, whether it’s through illness, murder, suicide, addictions — that’s what we do, we get together every year on this day and do a walk, and candlelit vigil, and a feast after,” explained Jackie Schell, committee member for the 20th annual Day of Mourning for casualties of the sex trade.
The day originated with the youth at Egadz who lost a good friend to the sex trade and wanted her commemorated. Since then, 142 names of children, women and men from Saskatoon have been placed on the list of deceased or missing victims of the sex trade, and the Day of Mourning is now officially recognized by the Province of Saskatchewan as being August 14th of every year. The hope is to not only support friends and family through the loss, but educate others on the risks and dangers of the lifestyle, acting preventatively.
“The youth are the main drive — we do background work like funding, but the youth do everything else,” explained Schell. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without the youth committee, and they are very dedicated youth who ensure this happens. They do the entire program, the day of.”
All the youth involved have been affected directly or indirectly by those whose lives have been lost.
“We help plan how the events are going to take place, the dignitaries, entertainment, program,” explained Shelby La Rose, who has been on the youth committee for some time. “There are about nine on the committee right now, some who are just learning and others who have been on the committee multiple years.”
Their desire is to create hope, dignity, and self-respect out of these tragedies by affirming commitment and concern for the victims and their families, so that they feel part of a caring community.
“This day is so important to bring awareness to the sex trade in Saskatoon and how big it is, and it’s also a really beautiful event,” noted Schell. “The dignitaries, the Elders, the drummers — it’s just a wonderful positive environment, everyone comes together and it feels nice.”
By honouring those who have lost their lives on the street to exploitation, they not only create community support, but educate high-risk youth and others about the root causes of the sex trade, and the very real dangers and risks involved.
“Even to support the families of these people, it’s important to gather,” noted La Rose. “This year we also partnered with the Missing Persons Liaison. They are coming to speak this year, which is new.”
The focus is on the families of the victims, the committee noted, whether they’re still missing their loved ones or it’s confirmed that they have passed away. The evening begins with a memorial walk after gathering at Pleasant Hill Park at 6:30 pm, followed by a return to the park for a program and traditional feast of soup and bannock. Entertainment includes Mike Scott’s music group “Brown Kids Shine” debuting a song especially written for the day and event, and videos created by the youth. Everyone is invited to attend. The event is supported by Affinity Credit Union, Egadz Saskatoon Downtown Youth Centre and the youth organizing committee.
“We invite one and all to join us in honouring the victims on this very important occasion,” said Schell of the event that takes place August 14th in Pleasant Hill Park in Saskatoon on Ave S between 20th and 21st beginning at 6:30 pm.