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Saskatoon woman's family comes face to face with one of four accused in her death

Family and supporters of a Saskatoon woman who is the victim of homicide came face to face with one of four people accused in connection to her death.

Loved ones of Megan Gallagher gathered outside of Saskatoon Provincial Court Thursday morning where 41-year-old Ernest Whitehead made his first appearance. He is charged with offering an indignity to human remains.

“This whole experience has left me, myself personally numb to a lot of things, they bounce off. Maybe I’ll feel it in a day or two, but I don’t know,” said Gallagher’s father, Brian.

“She wasn’t theirs to take. Lives are not disposable. There is no price on this. I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend most of it.”

Gallagher was last seen in September 2020. In January 2021, police declared her disappearance a homicide.

Her story has been featured on billboards and her loved ones have joined families of other missing women in hopes of finding them.

Brian, Gallagher’s stepmother Debbie, along with other family, friends and supporters filled the courtroom. When Whitehead appeared, they made direct eye contact with him. Brian could be seen with his arm around Debbie as she cried.

When the judge asked if Whitehead had any questions, he tried to address the court gallery while looking at Brian and Debbie, but the judge quickly cut him off and told him not to give any commentary.

Brian said while four people are facing charges, they still need answers. He said her loved ones need to know what happened to her and where her body is.

“We want our daughter to come home. We know we’re not going to have her back in person. We can’t hug her anymore, we can’t talk to her, we can’t hear her voice,” he said while tearing up.

“I was looking for pictures the other day and I realized my whole life I didn’t take enough pictures, I didn’t take any voice recordings. I wanted to hear her voice and I couldn’t. That’s the reality of what we’re living and that’s the reality of what withholding information is doing, it’s keeping us from having that little bit of resolution.”

Brian urges people not to let fear, greed or selfishness get in the way of helping families like his get the answers they deserve.

“The silence has to be broken. If people know something, please come forward and speak. That will do more good, more healing than people can imagine,” he said.

“There are so many families out there suffering the same realities. In many cases, theirs are far worse. We’ve got some answers in 20 months. Some people never get answers.”

Paul Trottier, whose daughter Mackenzie has been missing since Dec. 21, 2020, was one of the dozens of people who gathered outside the courthouse to show support for the Gallagher family.

Brian said Gallagher’s birth mother was unable to attend due to health issues related to her daughter’s disappearance.

Gallagher’s sister Lindsay Bishop also wasn’t there as she continues walking across Canada to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Aly Bear, third vice chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), said she played hockey with Gallagher growing up and was touched to see the community come together for her.

She said the FSIN stands with the family and will fight alongside them until they get justice for her.

“Sometimes we feel like the justice system doesn’t care because it’s hard and it’s cold and they don’t have empathy but that’s why it’s so important that the community shows up,” she said.

“But at the same time, I don’t think the justice system needs to be as hard and as cold as it is because our families are dealing with losses that they probably can’t even imagine. I can’t even imagine.”

Shirley Isbister, president of Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. (CUMFI), also stands with the Gallagher family and wants to support them through this process.

“They are living every parent’s worse nightmare. And, as the mother of two Indigenous daughters and four Indigenous granddaughters, it’s definitely been my worse nightmare.”

Isbister said while steps have been taken by the province and police forces to address the ongoing issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, more work still needs to be done at various levels, including by each individual.

“People need to realize that we’re not a disposable commodity and that we should be respected and our girls should be respected,” she said.

“People have to start coming forward and when you see incidents happening, you have to stop it. You have to stand up for our girls and report it.”

For Brian, having the community behind him and his family means everything.

“This is during work hours and this is the turnout. We only had a few hours notice ourselves so, to all the people that came out here and are supporting us and all of the other families, my heart just pumps for you. Thank you very much,” he said while addressing the crowd.

Brian said he won’t ever get closure, but hopes creating awareness about what happened to his daughter will prevent this from happening to others.

“It’s not going to happen to somebody else. Other families are not going to have to live through this and that other families out there that are living through this, maybe somebody will break the silence.”  

Whitehead has been ordered not to contact any of the other accused. He will remain in custody and is expected to appear by video at provincial court on Monday after he speaks to legal aid.

Roderick William Sutherland, 44, who was wanted in connection to the case, was arrested around 9:15 p.m. Wednesday.

According to Saskatoon Police Service (SPS), he was taken into custody by RCMP in the Prince Albert area following a tip from the public.

He will be making his first court appearance at provincial court on Friday morning.

Two others charged in Gallagher’s death remain at large, including 44-year-old John Wayne Sanderson from James Smith First Nation and 42-year-old Jessica Sutherland.

All three are charged with offering an indignity to human remains.

Police are asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of Sanderson and Sutherland to call SPS at 306-975-8300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Top Stories

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