Families of missing loved ones share walking staff

The Morin family walks with the staff front and centre on June 27, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Three families that have gone through the experience of having a loved one go missing shared a special moment at the annual PAGC Women’s Commission walk to honour missing and murdered Indigenous people Thursday.

Two years ago, mere months after Happy Charles went missing, her parents, Carson and Regina Poitras, and her daughters attended their first PAGC walk.

As they attended the City Hall ceremony, a man from the Burns family approached Carson. He handed him a staff he had carried for a year after his daughter went missing.

“In a brief ceremony, he passed it off to me and told me to carry the staff for the strength to assist us in our journey trying to find our daughter,” Carson said.

“He told me to add whatever I wanted to it, so we added the feather and carried that staff with us wherever we went to go look for our daughter.”

In that single moment of kindness, a tradition was born.

Last year, then Happy’s family returned to the walk, they handed the staff to JB Tsannie, whose son, Jean Baptiste Joseph Tsannie, went missing in northern Saskatchewan while snowmobiling.

“I told min the same thing Mr. Burns told me,” Carson said.

“Carry this staff, it will give you strength. Add whatever you want, it will give you the strength to carry on.”

This year, the process repeated itself. Carson and JB handed the staff to the Morin family.

“Carry this staff wherever you go looking for your daughter. If you go on walks, carry it with you,” Carson said.

“Add to it. Pray with it. It will give you comfort. It is a strong staff and will help you along your journey. Next year you will pass it along to another family.”

The Morin family accepted the staff and the families embraced. It’s only two weeks to the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Ashley Morin. The 31-year-old was last seen on July 10, 2018, in North Battleford.

Krista Fox, the family spokesperson, thanked JB and Carson for the gesture.

“Something told us we needed to be here. We’re hoping maybe Ashley brought us to make those connections and just to get those hugs,” she said.

“Thank you for inviting us. Thank you for the staff. We will honour it.”