The grieving family and friends of Mackaylah Gerard-Roussin gathered Friday around the driveway of the Steinbach home where six days earlier police opened a homicide investigation that led to the discovery of the young man’s body. 20 years on a trail south of Woodridge.
The hour-long vigil on Creekside Drive was one of four held to remember Gerard-Roussin, a bank clerk and youth worker who loved ones said was always ready to help those in need.
The day began with a vigil outside the home of a family member in Winnipeg’s North End. The group, numbering nearly 100 people, then traveled to Steinbach, where GÃ©rard-Roussin contacted his family for the last time.
RCMP then escorted the group to Woodridge for a private ceremony on the trail where Gerard-Roussin’s body was found. The day ended with a candlelight vigil in front of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly.
In Steinbach, mourners arrived in vehicles adorned with red ribbons, a symbol used to bring attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Many attendees wore T-shirts or hoodies printed with pictures of Gerard-Roussin as they hugged and comforted each other. Others held framed photographs, flowers, candles or signs.
Drumming and smudging were followed by remarks from Darryl Contois, who spoke about the importance of grief, forgiveness and healing.
“Let those tears flow, don’t hold them back,” Contois said. âWhatever you carry in your hearts, hatred, anger, let it go. Don’t take it with you, because it depresses you.
Contois said she met Gerard-Roussin at Rossbrook House, the drop-in center where she worked after finishing high school last year. Contois said he and GÃ©rard-Roussin also joined the search for missing persons. He would never have imagined that she herself would disappear one day.
The vigil ended with a shout in unison: âWe love you, Mackaylah! Attendees then marched past the driveway to lay flowers and sprinkle tobacco before returning to their vehicles for the emotional journey to Woodridge.
Kevin T. Hart, Gerard-Roussin’s uncle and family spokesman, could not be reached for comment. Contois said Hart did not attend Steinbach’s vigil.
During his speech at the vigil, Contois urged those close to GÃ©rard-Roussin to pray for those who have wronged them.
“It is the way of the Creator.”
The RCMP have charged Josh Benoit, 20, of Winnipeg, with first degree murder and contempt of a dead body.
Benoit was arrested on August 26 along Highway 52 in the MR of La Broquerie after a two-hour search by multiple police departments. RCMP said his car caught fire during the arrest. Officers then obtained information that led them to the trailhead near Woodridge.