Keeping Loretta’s legacy alive

Derek Montague
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Scholarship being created in Loretta Saunders’ name

Cheryl Maloney and Darryl Leroux hope to start a scholarship in Loretta Saunders’ name and, possibly, a research institute or foundation.

It’s hasn’t even been two months since the tragic murder of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, a Labrador Inuk woman who was studying sociology at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in Halifax. But there’s already a push to keep Saunders’ legacy alive in the academic world.

Darryl Leroux, assistant sociology professor at SMU has teamed up with Cheryl Mahoney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, to start a scholarship in Saunders’ name.

Although the idea of a Loretta Saunders scholarship is relatively new, $7,000 has already been raised. Leroux is aiming to get a minimum of $25,000 to get the idea off the ground.

“The day after we had found out she was murdered, I received dozens and dozens of emails and several of them were suggesting this precisely,” said Leroux.

“Obviously, we’d have to have the right partners. But we’ve had preliminary discussions with a lot of different partners and there’s a lot of interest for this.”

Tragic outcome

Saunders went missing on Feb.13. After more than a week of searching for the pregnant SMU student, Saunders body was found near a highway in New Brunswick on Feb. 26. The police have ruled her death a homicide and Saunders former roommates, Blake Leggette and Victoria Hennebury, have been charged with first-degree murder.

At the time of her untimely death, Saunders was working on an honour’s thesis regarding missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Leroux was Saunders thesis supervisor. Shortly before Saunders’ disappearance, he read over her thesis proposal. Leroux was blown away by what he read. A typical proposal is little more than 10 pages long. Saunders’ was nearly 30 pages, and was very articulate.

“It was really, incredibly well written,” said Leroux.

“I was really, really, impressed.”

Even before her met her, Leroux knew that Saunders had a bright academic future ahead of her.

“My first time meeting her, it was during a guest lecture I made,” recalled Leroux.

“Loretta was sitting in the front … she asked me some very challenging questions. There wasn’t a lot of questions (from other students), she asked most of them; really thoughtful questions.”

Saunders never got to finish her thesis or her studies, but Leroux and Maloney are hoping that, with the right support, others will be able to get a post-secondary education.

“The scholarship fund is a rather easy thing,” said Leroux. “A lot of people feel they can support something like that. Intuitionally, there are a lot of systems and processes in place for that to happen.”

Leroux is anticipating that the scholarship, which he hopes will be ready by the fall semester, would be awarded to one or more indigenous women in Atlantic Canada.

Just the beginning

But a scholarship fund is just one part of what Maloney and Leroux are envisioning. They’re dreaming that, some day, a research institute, or foundation, in Saunders’ name will be erected.

“I’m not limiting what we can do, I’m thinking big,” said Maloney.

“It’s up to us to finish her thesis. This is something Canadians need to complete.”

A meeting will be held in Halifax on April 24. Leroux and Maloney are hoping to gather individuals and organizations together that could assist them in their goal.

Some of the people invited include Nova Scotia MLAs and MPs, Halifax city councillors, and representatives from different universities in Atlantic Canada.

“We want to go through some preliminary ideas … how we would go about making that happen,” said Leroux. How we could go about seeing a foundation or an institute coming off the ground.”

Anyone who would like to donate to the scholarship fund can send an email money transfer to lorettasaunderslegacy@gmail.com, deposit money at your local credit union to Community Credit Union (Truro, NS), Account #67630000, or send a cheque to Cheryl Maloney, re: Loretta Saunders, at Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, P.O. Box 805, Truro, NS B2N 5E8.

derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

Organizations: Community Credit Union

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia Native Women, Atlantic Canada Labrador Inuk Saint Mary New Brunswick

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