‘He was a warrior:’ PA mother praying for answers a year after son went missing

Loretta Ballantyne said she last saw her son, Drew, as he was leaving her home in June 2022. -- Loretta Ballantyne/Facebook

Loretta Ballantyne smudges every day – a good day, a bad day, a busy day, it doesn’t matter.

“I talk to my son. I talk to him and tell him ‘Please, my son, please send me something. Tell me where you are,’” she said.

Wednesday marks one year since Drew Ballantyne was last seen in Prince Albert. According to police, the 34-year-old’s last known location was at a home on the 800 block of 14th Street West.

“As a young boy, I always made sure he was home and safe under the roof of where we lived and now I can’t do that because I don’t know where he is,” said Loretta.

“It’s harder than any other kind of grief that I’ve been faced with.”

The night he went missing, she recalled telling Drew to stay at her house because “he said he felt paranoid.” He wasn’t acting like himself, said Loretta.

“He said ‘No, I’m not going to stay there, that’s the first place they’ll come looking for me’ – and I don’t know who ‘they’ were.”

Loretta suspected that her son was speaking about the police. She said Ballantyne was on statutory parole from Saskatchewan Penitentiary, but that he missed an appointment, so his parole was suspended.

Crime Stoppers has him listed as ‘wanted’ and ‘unlawfully at large’ on its website.

Drew assured his mom he had a safe place to go, and that he would turn himself into police.

“I hugged him. That was my last hug and I told him ‘Be safe, my son. I love you very much.’ And he said ‘Yeah, I love you too, mom.’ And he kissed me on my cheek,” she said.

Although it’s tough to look back on, Loretta said she’s comforted knowing their last interactions were out of love.

Drew Ballantyne became invested in Indigenous practices from his time at a healing lodge, according to his mother. — Loretta Ballantyne/Facebook

He texted her in the early morning hours the next day, but when Loretta responded, she was left with silence.

“On that night, about 9 o’clock, I phoned his cellphone and somebody answered, somebody picked it up, and it wasn’t him. I said ‘Hey, who’s this? Where’s Drew?’ and they hung up. I dialed again. It rung, rung, rung, no answer. Dialed again, I did that about five times,” she said.

According to Loretta, police pinged that phone call in Saskatoon. Prince Albert police have said they believe Drew was in Saskatoon on June 30, 2022, and that he also has connections to Big River.

“When that person answered on the other line, in the pit of my stomach, I knew something had happened to my son.”

Culture at the forefront of family’s coping

Although he “lost his ways sometimes,” Loretta said her son had lots to give. He was a dedicated father, a hard worker, and would always lend a helping hand to people on the streets.

She said Drew’s time at a healing lodge submersed him into his Indigenous culture.

He became an oskapîs, she explained, someone who helps elders during a sweat. A sweat is a purification ceremony intended to cleanse the mind, body and spirit.

“He was a warrior,” she said.

Drew was also a gifted beader – a skill he learned during his time at the penitentiary. He made medallions, lanyards and a dreamcatcher that Loretta has hanging in her living room.

“A lot of the time I think ‘Why? Why? Why am I going through this?’ I try so hard,” said Loretta.

“I’m still struggling emotionally and mentally and physically, but the spiritual side of me is strong and that’s what keeps me going.”

Drew Ballantyne’s son recently turned nine years old. Loretta Ballantyne said “he cries” not knowing where his dad is. — Loretta Ballantyne/Facebook

Loretta said family members in Pelican Narrows will be burning a four-day sacred fire to remember Drew. Family in Prince Albert, including herself, will also be taking part in traditional ceremony to honour him.

A news release from Prince Albert police said Drew is 5’11” tall, weighing about 210 pounds, with brown eyes and shoulder-length black hair. Typically, he wears his hair in a ponytail or braid.

He was last seen wearing a black ball cap, a black Adidas track suit with white stripes and Nike running shoes. Drew also frequently wore a heavy gold chain. Anyone with information is asked to call Prince Albert police or report tips anonymously through Crime Stoppers.