The funeral for two young girls, who were found dead in a forest last weekend, began Monday afternoon with a popular Quebec song that describes the human suffering hidden behind beautiful landscapes.
The song, l'Amérique pleure by the Cowboys Fringants, was a favourite of six-year-old Romy Carpentier. She went missing with her 11-year-old sister, Norah, on July 8, prompting an Amber Alert and a massive police search operation.
Police suspected their father, Martin Carpentier, was responsible for the abduction. The bodies of the two girls were discovered three days later in a wooded area near Saint-Apollinaire, a small town south of Quebec City.
Carpentier, 44, is believed to be on the run from police, and is wanted in connection with their deaths.
On Monday, at a funeral home in Lévis, Que., just south of Quebec City, friends and family gathered to remember the brief lives of Romy and Norah.
"Even if I can no longer be by your sides, I will continue to cherish, one by one, each memory, picture and video. And I will continue to hear your gentle voices," the girls' mother, Amélie Lemieux, said during the service.
Norah's cousin, Léticia, recalled meeting her as a newborn: "You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life — my very first cousin."
Romy's godmother, Renée, said she would see her "everywhere in the sky," as well as in her mother's eyes.
After the service, two doves were released into the sky.
'Your two stars, your two princesses'
The funeral service was held according to provincial public health guidelines. Only 50 people were allowed to attend the service and everyone wore a mask.
A large screen was installed in the parking lot behind the funeral home, where more than 100 people gathered to watch the service.
WATCH | Family, friends say goodbye today to Norah and Romy Carpentier:
Dozens more lined up earlier in the day to pay their respects at a public viewing. As they waited to enter, many were visibly upset; some broke into tears.
"There are no explanations for all this," said Judith Gagnon, a friend of the girls' mother. "This is a tragedy that [the family] will have to live with for years."
Ahead of the funeral, the screen in the parking lot showed pictures of the two girls laughing and playing with family and friends. In one short video, Norah performs a skit for her mother, who is seen laughing in the background.
In another video, Romy is dressed like a princess and dances for the camera.
Marie-Pierre Genois said she came to support Lemieux, who has been a friend since childhood. "It was important for me to be here for her."
The mayor of Lévis, Gilles Lehouillier, promised to erect a permanent memorial plaque to the girls in a local park known for its impressive waterfall.
"The message we wanted to send to the family is that they will be remembered in time. We will never forget the tragedy that happened here," Lehouillier told journalists outside the funeral home.
In the House of Commons, Conservative MP Jacques Gourde, who represents the Lévis area, read out a message of support to the family.
"I hope your two stars, your two princesses, Norah and Romy, will guide you in the moments to come," Gourde said.
Search for father continues
Over the weekend, provincial police announced they were suspending their search for Martin Carpentier in the woods around Saint-Apollinaire in order to pursue other leads.
Some media outlets in Quebec have reported that local residents were frustrated the Sûreté du Québec was unable to locate Carpentier after 10 days of combing through dense forest.
At a news conference on Monday, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault defended the SQ's handling of the investigation.
"Everything was done in order to reach the objective," Guilbault said. "We were in contact throughout the process to make sure that everything went according to the rules, that things were going well and that they had the resources they needed."
With files from La Presse Canadienne, Jaela Bernstien and Joshua Grant
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca