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Thompson Mckenzie, Eric Bell, centre, and Stanley Roberts are pictured during a search of Lower Foster Lake for the bodies of Jim Brady and Abbie Halkett, two outspoken leaders and advocates who went missing in 1967. (Submitted by Deanna Reder) Mystery has swirled around the disappearance of Métis leader James (Jim) Brady and Absolom (Abbie) Halkett for 51 years. But now, sonar technology may answer at least one long-simmering question — where did the two men go?

Deanna Reder, the head of Simon Fraser University’s Indigenous Studies department, began searching for Brady and Halkett after a request from her uncle. But others in northern Saskatchewan also need that question answered, she said.

"Part of what we’ve wanted to accomplish is to let family members know we’ve looked, we’ve done our best, and we’ve tried to bring them home," she said.

"The next stage is really in the hands of the RCMP." Vanished with no trace

Brady and the Lac La Ronge Indian band councillor had been prospecting in northern Saskatchewan in June 1967 by Lower Foster Lake. Their canoes were in the water, their camp was on shore, but the two men themselves simply vanished.

Many of their community members didn’t believe the two men just went missing, but that they were murdered, said Reder.

"That seems to be the general consensus — there’s no way that Jim Brady and Abbie Halkett would together get lost, and then manage to perish and hide their own bodies," she said.

Fuelling that suspicion was the fact that both men were outspoken about the conditions faced by people living in northern communities. Furthermore, Brady was known as a Marxist, a socialist and a member of the Canadian Communist party, and a "general shit-disturber," as Reder described him with a chuckle. James Brady was an outspoken Métis leader and advocate, who called for better living conditions for Indigenous and Métis people living in northern Saskatchewan communities. (SaskCulture.ca) ‘They didn’t get lost’

A decade ago, Reder’s uncle asked her to do some research into the two men’s deaths.

"Years ago, he said, ‘Just get some sonar and find then, because they didn’t get lost,’" she recalled.

At that time, Reder didn’t have access to the technology to finish the task her uncle had set out for her.

It was only within the last couple of years that she and research partner Michael Nest began to delve further into the mystery, doing further archival research to establish where the two men had set up camp, and where they might have ended up. The search begins

Eric Bell, local search leader and owner of La Ronge EMS, said that Reder and Nest had collected old documents, and had come to La Ronge and talked to him about their search.

"There was no real conclusion to the story," he noted. The search team included researchers Michael Nest and Deanna Reder, along with Lac La Ronge Indian Band members Eric Bell, Thompson Mckenzie and Stanley Roberts, with Mckenzie and Roberts operating the Grandmother’s Bay Indian Reserve sonar equipment. (Submitted by Deanna Reder) Bell’s family had known Brady, and he recalled that as a young boy, he himself had visited the Métis leader. Those memories gave Bell a personal interest in the search.

Knowing the Grandmother’s Bay search and recovery team had a remotely operated vehicle that could capture images underwater, Bell thought the equipment could be used to search the lake. The land had been searched beforehand, but the depths of the water still held its closely guarded secrets.

Twice a group went out to search the area, with the first search taking place in August of 2018, followed by […]

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