COCHRANE— Friends and family gathered Wednesday (April 28) to honour the life of Keesha Crawler with a vigil centred on drawing attention to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
The vigil was held alongside Highway 1A where Crawler was found deceased 10 days prior.
On April 18 at approximately 6:45 a.m., Stoney Nakoda RCMP was called to assist EMS with an unresponsive female on the side of Highway 1A.
The victim was 23-year-old Crawler, who was pronounced deceased on scene.
Bryan Kelrick House Junior, age 37, has been charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death in relation to the death of 23-year-old Keesha Crawler. After a Judicial Hearing, the accused was released on bail and will next be appearing in Cochrane Provincial Court on May 25.
The RCMP investigation revealed that Keesha had departed from a moving vehicle and was placed back inside the vehicle. She was then left on the side of Highway 1A where she succumbed to her injuries before EMS could reach her.
“On April 18, 2021, my daughter Keesha Crawler was left here by her so-called boyfriend,” said Heather Poucette, Crawler’s mother. “He just called EMS and he did not stay by her side so she could get the help she needed.”
Poucette called the act heartless and cruel.
“My daughter did not ask for this,” Poucette said. “My daughter was an innocent 23-year-old girl. A young woman. She’s a mother of two kids. My oldest granddaughter is five, my grandson is three. They’re asking, ‘where is my mom?’”
Poucette said Crawler's children have been asking about their mother, and she has struggled to find an answer for them.
“How do you begin to explain something like that to a five-year-old who has not even begun to live yet,” she added.
Poucette said her daughter was a kind and caring person, someone who touched many lives in the community.
Crawler was someone who was adventurous, fearless, humorous and always willing to learn new things, Poucette said. She loved makeup, getting dressed up and making fried bannock. She was someone who made friends easily, was humble and very caring of her family and friends and the people who were in her life.
She embraced her culture and enjoyed attending Sun Dances and culture camps.
“Look at all of the lives she has touched, look at all of her beautiful friends here. She made a positive impact in all of their lives. I hear their stories, these young women, the friendship that they had with my daughter— It’s so beautiful. They lost a confidant, they lost a best friend, they lost somebody they turn to— Somebody that would encourage them in a positive way to make changes. I’m not the only one that’s hurting as a mom,” Poucette said.
She questioned the circumstances of which her daughter’s injuries came to be, and said she wishes she knew more about how her daughter died.
“Yes, the pathologist might say that yes, her wounds might reflect that of someone falling off of a vehicle, but you don’t know. Did she jump off willingly? Did she jump off of there trying to escape them? Was her life at risk? What happened? We will never know. We will never know exactly what happened,” Poucette said.
In Canada, Indigenous women face a heightened occurrence of violence perpetrated against them.
Country-wide, Indigenous women are six times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous women.
Statistics show one in four Indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetime and are three times more likely to experience frequent violence than non-Indigenous women
Poucette said she hopes the individuals who were allegedly involved in her daughter’s death see justice, either on earth or in the next life.
“The creator knows how we live our lives, knows how we take our steps,” Poucette said. “They will face their judgment and God will see to it that my daughter gets justice.”