Inuk writer Delilah Saunders is relieved a book of poetry which contained graphic details about her sister’s murder has been pulled by the publisher.
Book*Hug has pulled the book, “Who Took My Sister” by Shannon Webb-Campbell, after learning the author did not first seek permission from the family of Loretta Saunders before writing a poem about the way she died.
Saunders said she read Webb-Campbell’s poem after a friend sent her photos of it from the book.
“It was very descriptive. She speaks as if she is my sister. She speaks in the first person. It was difficult to read someone using my sister’s voice to impersonate my sister,” Saunders said.
According to Saunders, the book also contained poems about the deaths of other missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“This is not the way to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” she said about Webb-Campbell’s book.
Loretta Saunders, 26, from Labrador, was attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax when she went missing from her apartment on Feb. 13, 2014. Her body was later found in the median along the Trans-Canada Highway near Salisbury, N.B.
Blake Leggette and his then girlfriend, Victoria Henneberry, are currently serving life sentences after they pleaded guilty in April 2015 to killing Saunders.
In a statement released on March 30, the Book*Hug’s owners explained they were unaware that Webb-Campbell did not contact the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to seek their permission before including the poems in her book.
The publisher removed the book from public sale and has stopped further production of the book.
Book*Hug did not respond to Ku’ku’kwes News’ request for an interview. Webb-Campbell also declined to be interviewed.
Poet apologizes to family in Facebook post
In a Facebook post which has since been deleted, Webb-Campbell, who identifies herself as Mi’kmaq/settler descent, apologized to Delilah Saunders and her family over the way she described Loretta’s death and for not contacting them before publishing the poem.
“I am deeply sorry for any further harm the poetics of this work has inflicted, as it was never my intention to re-traumatize, reproduce, or retell the details of your sister’s murder for personal, public, or financial gain,” Webb-Campbell wrote.
“The collection stems from a series of public sources, news articles, mostly. Again, I am so sorry that I did not reach out to you, and your family,” she wrote.
Saunders said she and her family would not have consented to the poem had Webb-Campbell reached out to them before publication.
“It was unnecessarily descriptive. It’s dehumanizing,” Saunders said.
“Loretta was much more than the struggle that took her life. She was much more than that,” she said.
Book*Hug has offered to donate the sales from Webb-Campbell’s book to the Loretta Saunders scholarship fund. However, Saunders said she is talking with family members of other missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls mentioned in the book about using that money to set up a fund to help them.
“There are other families going through the judicial process that could really use those funds. So I’m waiting to hear back from those other families to come to an agreement on what we should do with it,” Saunders said.