CONNE RIVER, N.L.- The community of Conne River is reeling after the death of a young woman Wednesday night.
“Everybody’s in shock. It brings home a little bit the murdered and missing women across the country, and what’s been happening,” Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi Chief Mi’sel Joe said in an interview. “It comes home to us in a small little community. Sometimes we get comfortable in believing it’s not going to happen to us. Then all of a sudden, it’s here, and how do we deal with that?”
The RCMP issued a news release Thursday stating the Bay D’Espoir detachment received a report of a suspicious death at 9:30 the night before. The RCMP said the incident remains under investigation and the major crimes unit has been called in, as well as the coroner’s office.
While police have not released the name of the woman, Joe confirmed a post from the Chief and council of the south coast community on the Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi Facebook page that identified her as Chantal John.
“I just thank God for the insight of our people,” the chief said.
“There are people in place who can work and help the people to get through this. I’m not just talking about the family of the victim, I’m talking about the whole community.”
Support services were set up at the Family Centre in the church basement for Thursday and Friday, starting at 10 a.m.
“If any community member would like to drop by for coffee, snacks or a chat, please feel free to do so,” read a post on the Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi Facebook page.
“It is so important to honour the feelings of loss and find a place to express them. We encourage anyone who would like someone to talk to or just be with others, to visit the Family Centre.
“Everyone is welcome.”
The school will also have support services for staff and students.
“I encourage all of you to pray with me for healing and comfort for her family and community who are today dealing with the impact of such a terrible loss.”
-Chief Brendan Mitchell
“Missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) is an issue affecting Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, including the First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Native American communities,” read the Facebook post, which had been shared nearly 500 times and garnered close to 200 comments an hour after it was posted. “It has been described as a Canadian national crisis. Canadian Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence, and are significantly over-represented among female Canadian homicide victims.
“The recent event in the community has hit home that the MMIWG crisis has no boundaries.”
Chief Brendan Mitchell shared his grief and support on the Qalipu First Nation Facebook page.
“I was saddened to hear the news of a terrible tragedy that occurred last night in Conne River. A young woman’s life was taken in an act of violence,” Mitchell wrote. “I encourage all of you to pray with me for healing and comfort for her family and community who are today dealing with the impact of such a terrible loss.”
Joe and council are asking people to wear red Jan. 11 to honour Chantal John, and remember all Indigenous women who have been murdered or are missing.
“I think it’s a reminder to all of us,” Joe said. “It’s a symbol that’s being used across the country, and I think in honour of Chantal’s passing, that we can at least do that for her and her family.”
“I’m so glad that we have a close-knit community, that it’s like a big family that comes together. We’ll look after each other, and that’s the most important thing of all.
-Chief Mi'sel Joe
Joe also spoke about the need to know more about people moving to the community to live. He said he and council have, in the past, banished people for causing disruptions or committing domestic violence.
“We need now to take a serious look at how we’re going to deal with that,” he said. “Who knows what background people are coming from, and when they come into the community, we don’t know who they are, those things can happen more often. We’re not prepared for that to happen.
“So the next step for us is to now look seriously at doing those police checks on anyone that comes into our community, that’s coming in to live in our community.”
Joe said it has been a rough day for him and the community, and it will likely be rough for a little while.
“I’m so glad that we have a close-knit community, that it’s like a big family that comes together,” he said. “We’ll look after each other, and that’s the most important thing of all.