Pernell Ballantyne first walked to raise awareness about his sister’s cause. Then, he walked for justice. Then, for anyone suffering from loss, or still looking for their loved ones.
This year, he’s walking to bring her home.
Monica Lee Burns went missing in January of 2015.
That sparked Ballantyne’s first walk. He travelled from Saskatoon to Prince Albert over three days in -40 C weather.
Later, he and Conrad Burns walked from Saskatoon to P.A. Then, they walked in town, from the P.A. Inn to the Mann Art Gallery.
This year’s walk, though, is Ballantyne’s last.
“There are four directions, four seasons,” he said after last year’s walk. “It’s our culture to do it in fours.”
Ballantyne departed on the last walk Monday morning, shortly after 9 p.m., from just south of the Diefenbaker Bridge. He plans to walk to Sturgeon Lake, where there will be a feast and pipe ceremony to honour his sister’s spirit.
Sturgeon Lake is where Monica is laid to rest. She was found just off of a snowmobile trail 15 km north of Prince Albert on Jan. 17, 2015. Her killer pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
“I’m taking her back home to Sturgeon Lake to rest in peace,” Ballantyne said Monday.
“It’s a great honour to have served my sister in this kind of way. The importance is that I did my four consecutive years for her to bring awareness for her, to bring justice for her, to help others still looking for their loved ones — that’s the whole purpose of doing this.”
Ballantyne thanked everyone who has supported him along the way, including people who have walked with him and the Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron who helped to set up the feast at the end of the walk.
“I feel really humble. I feel a lot of gratitude,” Ballantyne said.
“I feel inspired by everything.”
While a few years have passed since Monica’s death, Ballantyne still thinks about his sister. He said the journey has been “hard and really emotional.
“I still tear up once in a while. At night, I pray for her. I still miss her,” he said.
“It was a great honour to do this for her.”
He reflected on what the walks mean to him during last year’s walk as well.
“(Sturgeon Lake) will be my final destination, my final journey, to lay my sister down in spirit,” he said.
“But she will never be forgotten.”