FORT MCMURRAY (660 NEWS) — The Fort McMurray Metal Saints are an all-women motorcycle riding group. With a focus on female empowerment and giving back to the community, they have been active for 10 years.
On Tuesday, the Metal Saints left Fort McMurray on a cross-country ride to Gaspe, Que., raising money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
“A few of the girls riding with me have fathers who have battled cancer, so it wasn’t hard to decide on a cause,” said Metal Saints founder Annie Lelievre.
The group was founded in 2011, after Lelievre’s son was killed in a collision on Highway 63 on New Year’s Eve.
“Losing my son Jason inspired me to get a petition going to have the Highway 63 twinned, because we were having fatal collisions on there all the time,” Lelievre said.
“I had the backing of some of the strongest women that I know. After going to the legislature with my petition that had over 60,000 signatures, the ‘Metal Saints’ were formed.”
LISTEN: 660’S Devon Banfield on the Fort McMurray Metal Saints
Then in 2014, the unthinkable happened. Lelievre’s ex-husband John, the father of her late son, was also killed in a collision on the highway.
The 434-kilometre stretch of highway runs from Edmonton to Fort McMurray and the Athabasca Oilsands. One of the most deadly highways in the province, it has earned the nickname “The Highway of Death”.
“I had such strong women behind me while I was working on that petition, I thought ‘What else can we do?’” Lelievre told 660 NEWS.
Since then the Metal Saints have focused on empowering and supporting women in the community.
Every year they host a New Year’s breakfast for the less fortunate. They also organize food, clothing, and toy drives for women’s shelters and foodbanks in Wood Buffalo and take part in community events, like recent vigils and marches to honour the children who died at residential schools across Canada.
“As women we all go through it. But I’m here to show you that women are not weak, we truly can overcome and achieve anything,” Lelievre said.
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“I’m trying to be a role model, if you set your mind to anything you can actually accomplish it. I’ve lost my son and my ex-husband on the highway and I’m going forward, hoping that it inspires these women.”
Lelievre says that empowering women is what keeps her going in the face of her son’s death.
“I’m here to help women succeed, and it helps me move forward that I can help,” she said.
Every year the Metal Saints host a memorial ride for those who have died on Highway 63, held on July 17, Lelievre’s son’s birthday.
“This year he would have turned 32, but I lost him when he was 21 years old,” Lelievre told 660 NEWS.
The Metal Saints arrived in Thunder Bay this morning, and plan to reach Gaspe next week.