Community mourns loss of woman whose remains were found near river last week

With candles and red roses in hand, dozens of people gathered near the Red River on Sunday night to honour Jana Williams, whose family says her remains were the ones found on Alfred Avenue last week.

“There’s a lot of hurt here tonight, a lot of pain,” Alaya McIvor, an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous people, said at the vigil.

McIvor stood with one of Williams’ family members, who she said was not yet ready to speak publicly about the death.

While the vigil attended by more than 60 people came as a result of a tragedy, McIvor said it also showed the power of the community to come together on short notice to support Williams’ family.

“If you look around here tonight, all you see is love from the community to reflect to the families in helping lift them up. And that’s important,” she said.

Nahanni Fontaine, MLA for St. John’s, said coming out to vigils for loved ones lost to violence time and time again takes a toll on the community. 

“For us to always come out as a community and to see a mother weep, to hear the pain and the anguish in our relatives at the loss of another one of our sisters, it is so painful,” she said.

“Jana deserves to be honoured and loved, and deserves justice. [Whoever] did this, I hope you’re caught. I hope you’re brought towards the courts and I hope you’re sentenced.”

Police said last week they responded to a call reporting possible human remains around 6 p.m. on Thursday. 

Officers arrived to Alfred Avenue, off Main Street and near the Red River, and confirmed the discovery. As of Sunday police had not publicly disclosed the age or identity of the person whose remains were found.

More information is expected to be released on Monday.

People left flowers and candles at a memorial created for Jana Williams near where her family says her remains were found last week. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The Winnipeg Police Service said in a news release on Friday that a post-mortem examination had been scheduled and the homicide unit was investigating.

Anyone with information was asked to call 204-986-6508 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 204-786-TIPS (8477).

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