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'A sense of hope': Sask. First Nation leaders mourn death of women's advocate


First Nations leaders in northern Saskatchewan are mourning the death of Shirley Henderson, a life-long community builder and advocate for women.

As the chair of the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) women’s commission for over 25 years, Henderson was instrumental in the creation of a shelter for women and girls fleeing domestic violence, which opened in her home community of Montreal Lake Cree Nation in 2021.

At the time, Henderson told CTV News the shelter was 20 years in the making. There were more women looking for a safe haven than there were available beds, she said.

“The demand is very high and every time you phone a shelter, it’s always full.”

When they secured funding, she said she was overcome with emotion.

“We just about had tears in our eyes knowing that we were one of the 10 shelters approved,” Henderson told CTV News in 2021.

“I think it gives them a sense of hope, that there is hope there, that there is a better life and with help, they can change that life and go on to something better.”

Services to commemorate Henderson’s life began on Sunday in Prince Albert before a planned move to her home community of Montreal Lake.

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte says Henderson was a tireless advocate for women and families.

"The impact of a life well-lived is measured not in days or years, but in the enduring change it brings to the world. Shirley Henderson changed our world for the better, and we are all the richer for it," said Hardlotte.

Henderson devoted her life to public service, including as a band councillor in Montreal Lake, director of health and through volunteering, according to a PAGC news release. She organized campaigns to address critical issues such as the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Truth and Reconciliation, and provided support to the homeless and Ukrainian refugees.

Henderson died on Saturday at 69-years-old.

A wake will be held on Monday at the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Gym in Montreal Lake.

-With files from Jayda Taylor Top Stories

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