The 2015 Jarita Naistus Memorial Walk for Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women took place on Oct. 2, and saw supporters walk from the Lloydminster City Hall to Onion Lake, where they stopped at Naistus’s gravesite for a memorial ceremony.
“This marks the 10th anniversary of her murder, which is now a cold case,” said Gord Schreyer, Naistus’s stepfather. “There was an arrest and (the accused) was released a couple years later and released on all charges. It was technicalities with the judge, he just got off is all.”
The event, as its name suggests, was designed to bring awareness to murdered and missing Aboriginal women, but Schreyer says it’s about more than that because crimes like these impact woman of all races. According to Schreyer, there were 1,100 missing women reported last year with about 215 of them being of Aboriginal descent.
“It is awareness for all walks of life,” he said. “All walks, all women. Nobody owns this crime. It is a crime of the human race and it is just an awareness and a memorial of Jarita, of course, because she doesn’t have a voice anymore. So we are her voice and you just can’t walk away from this.”
Naistus, who was 20 at the time, was found dead in a Lloydminster hotel room in 2005. There was DNA evidence linking the accused to the hotel room the night of her murder but a mistake by the trial judge saw the case ordered to go to a second trial after an initial guilty verdict. The man was found not guilty during that trial. Schreyer attributes this result to the “power of lawyers.”
“It is now officially a cold case. That’s not right. Somebody is out there free from this crime and her children are paying for it,” he said. “Her family is paying for it and this person, this individual is a free person.”
See “Naistus,” Page 12
Schreyer considers the walk a very important event and wishes more people would get involved. He says he’d contacted various radio stations about the event but didn’t here much back in the way of exposure or promotion. He’s unsure why the public turns a “deaf ear” on the subject, saying again that this issue is not exclusive to the Aboriginal community.
He says society needs to put the blinders on instead of taking them off, because when people see with their eyes, all they see is race.
“If we put the blinders on and use our ears, we’re all human beings. Everybody is in the same class and until that happens, everything is so segregated. Like I say, the Aboriginal community doesn’t own this crime and it is getting worse.”
Considering the flaws in the justice system that allowed for Naistus’s murderer to ultimately walk free, Schreyer says the best approach to address the problem is providing education and awareness to children.
“Trust should be earned, not given. And to not make ourselves vulnerable. A single wolf is very vulnerable but a pack of wolves together is very protected. Education is key. Education and awareness will result in prevention.”