(Anne Marie Jourdain, Innu woman missing since 1957. Photo courtesy of the National Inquiry)
During her testimony at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), Denise Fontaine stood up and pulled a rosary out of her pocket.
“All I wanted to know was whether my mother is living, or was she dead,” Fontaine said.
She then described being given the rosary by an Inuit shaman
“He held half of it, and then he asks me to hold the other half. I did that. He said ‘listen closely, yes, your mother is deceased. Are you ready to hear everything?’ I said yes,” recollected Fontaine.
She then recounted what the shaman told her.
“Why you never found her, was because she was burnt,” the shaman told her.
Watch Danielle Rochette’s story from the inquiry.
Fontaine’s mother, Anne-Marie Jourdain went missing in 1957 at the age of 24.
Family and community members from the Sept-Iles area in northeastern Quebec searched for the Innu woman but never found her remains.
Fontaine said several things the shaman told her, fit clues that the family had found during the search.
Anne-Marie Jourdain’s brother, Edmund was part of the search party after she went missing.
He testified that they found footmarks that led to nearby sled or drag marks in the snow.
As well as the body of a 12-year old boy that had accompanied Anne-Marie into the woods.
The boy was wearing the coat and gloves of Anne-Marie, but a .22 rifle that they had been carrying was never found.
“We don’t know what he died of, nothing was ever explained,” said Edmund Jourdain “Did they die in peace? Who dragged this child? Who did this to this child?”
Fontaine said the family suspects someone at a non Indigenous logging camp that was located near where her mother went missing.
“I’m sure that my mother was murdered,” Fontaine testified. “There was no Aboriginal person that was authorized to go on location. It’s as if my mother had been kidnapped, taken away, or murdered so she would not be found, and the fact that in the camp there was a wood stove, two 45 gallons drums, they must’ve burned her after they killed her to hide the evidence.”
The family said they were told an RCMP officer searched the logging camp, but aside from that they say the investigation into Anne-Marie’s disappearance was inadequate.
“Discrimination, that’s what it was about. This Innu is worthless,” testified Fontaine.
Fanny Wylde, an Algonquin lawyer for the inquiry, said steps have already been taken to look into Anne-Marie’s disappearance.
“In preparation of the testimony this morning we already wrote our subpoenas to send to the RCMP regarding that story, we would like to see if there was any files or an investigation,” said Wylde.
“If there are no files, there will be a second phase during this inquiry which is the institution’s hearings, so therefore we’re going to ask questions to the institutions, which are the RCMP in this case.”
The family of Anne-Marie Jourdain welcomes any progress in her case.
After her disappearance, her children were raised in different households, and although they’ve since reunited, the loss of their mother haunts them.
“I wish there some opportunity to meet my mother’s love, that’s what I missed most” said Fontaine.
The National Inquiry runs until the end of the week in Maliotenam First Nation in Quebec.
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