A candlelight vigil was held on the Lac La Ronge Indian Band urban reserve in downtown La Ronge Wednesday evening in support of a northern advocate for suicide prevention.

Tristen Durocher walked 635 km from Air Ronge to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building and is now on day-14 of a fast in his fight to have legislation passed for suicide prevention.

The La Ronge vigil was organized by Christopher Merasty, who walked to Regina alongside Durocher, and Valerie Barnes-Connell.

Merasty said he wanted to show Durocher that his hometown is with him during his battle.

“It was something that we needed to do,” he said. “It was to show young Tristen support, especially in his hometown community as this is where he was raised.”

Seven people spoke to the crowd of around 50, each telling their own story about losing loved ones to suicide and explaining their own experiences with it.

Sarah Poole, a teacher in La Ronge, was one of the speakers.

She told listeners that she has lost 13 students from suicide since she began teaching.

“Since I was younger than Tristen, I have been following the rules,” she said. “I have taken the training and I have worked with the kids, and I have done everything that I could. But nobody can do this when every single time you only get the help after a kid dies and I am so frustrated.”

Another speaker was 15-year-old Anthony Isbister, who spoke of the feeling he had when he heard that Durocher and Merasty were doing this walk—hope. He said he’s had friends die by suicide and he had felt helpless.

Merasty said the legislation he and Durocher walked for and fasted for should already be in place.

“For us to do what we’ve done, walking over 600 km—the year’s 2020,” he said. “Something like that should have been implemented years ago. We shouldn’t even have to be here doing this walk. We shouldn’t have to be fasting on the legislative grounds—13 days today fasting—shouldn’t even have to do it. There should be meaningful legislation. There should be something in place already for our Saskatchewan communities.”

Durocher may be facing eviction today as he goes to a Regina court for bylaw charges on overnight camping and having a fire.

Even if evicted and his teepee is taken down, Durocher says he will remain on the grounds, continuing his fast until September 13, when his fast is set to finish.

(Photo: La Ronge vigil. By Brandon White.)