(Sandra Johnson, left with her mother Joyce who passed away this year. Sandra was murdered in Thunder Bay in 1992.)
APTN National News
On Thursday, members of the National Families Advisory Council issued a letter in support of the embattled National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The inquiry was under siege with a coalition in Manitoba calling for the commissioners to resign, and another organization rescinding support of the commission.
APTN contacted the two signatories asking for a comment on the letter.
Both Delilah Saunders and Sharon Johnson, whose sister Sandra was murdered in 1992 responded.
Here is the interview with Delilah.
And below is Sharon’s response to APTN’s question in its entirety.
For my part, I told them that I want to see justice for my late sister Sandra Kaye Johnson, in whatever way that might look and however they can help to make that happen.
I remain hopeful that the current NI team will continue to do the hard work that has to be tremendously difficult, especially when groups of families and organizations are calling on them to step down and start over.
They’ve already done a good part of the work to get the inquiry off the ground through so many obstacles and opposition by many who never supported it in the first place.
As far as I’m concerned, it always has to do with the politics why our families end up last and this time, divided. Maybe it was set up to fail, who knows? Either way, I will support the current team in it’s progress to date. If it goes the other way and they end up dismantling what they built so far, then I will be there to support them as well.
I for one, will do what I need to do as a family member to stand my ground and get some closure for my family, even if it’s not through this inquiry.
I already lost my three family members who never had a chance to see the day when they would find closure and some answers as to what happened to our baby sister when her body was found naked on the frozen Neebing-McIntyre Floodway in February 1992.
But more recently, I lost my mother to colon cancer on May 1st of this year, which I’m sure had a lot to do with her grief and broken heart for 25 years after she lost her 18 year old daughter in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
My late father John Johnson Jr, I believe died of a broken heart only nine days shy of Sandra’s one year anniversary date. I saw it in my late father’s face, the sadness and brokenness of how a big piece of his heart died with his baby girl, he rarely smiled in the year following Sandra’s murder.
My younger brother Sterling Johnson, drank his sorrows away and I know the excruciating pain he carried for years after he lost his baby sister who was the drummer for their band. Sterling continued to play his bass guitar but it was never the same for him.
To this day, I walk the bush trails where I feel closest to my little brother who loved the outdoors. I create mini-tipis today as a way to feel closer to him because he used to build tipis behind our late mother’s house. Both my parents are gone so I feel I have nothing to lose. And they always told me to stand my ground in the face of uncertainty and anger, etc., so I am doing just that.
So with that, I hope whatever the outcome is after today, that it will all be for the best for everyone.
I love all my MMIWG families, so many I’ve met since I took on this work in memory of my late sister in 2005.
If it wasn’t for all the family members who took my hand and held me tight until I could stop crying, I might be out there somewhere too, lost and all alone.
It was always my ‘MMIW family’ that was there for me, no one else. I too have been turned away many times over the years by people who claimed to be there for families, only to be disappointed and left to fend for myself and to find other ways to continue to raise awareness for our families in Thunder Bay.
I consider myself lucky that my late mother was always there to brush me off with her love, hugs, kisses and support, until I was ok to carry on again. Today, I believe she is still walking with me and is guiding me along with this work for missing and murdered women.
And that, APTN is what I shared with the Commissioners. Bottom line, any work I do for the MMIW/MMIWG cause, is for my late mother, Joyce Johnson.
Maybe that’s not enough, but for me, the work is in my heart and I will keep doing what I know best, and that’s to organize our annual FULL MOON MEMORY WALK. I hope and pray that with this work ahead of the current team, it will work out for the best for all of our families.
With much love and respect to our families, and in memory of our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,
Sharon Johnson, BA
Full Moon Memory Walk
Missing/Murdered Indigenous Women