Aboriginal women look for resolution to lingering issues

Fifth annual memorial vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women highlights need for change.

Aboriginal women in Canada don’t have to be leading a high risk lifestyle to become prey to people with violent intent, said speakers at Kelowna’s fifth annual memorial vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Speaking outside the Kelowna courthouse to a crowd of about 50 people on Sunday, Harron Hall, a cousin of murder victim Roxanne Louie, talked about how she could easily be among the statistics brought forward that day.

Simply because of the colour of her skin, she’s been reduced to stereotypes and mistreated by men she’s never met, she told the crowd.

The inequities dealt to aboriginal women is something Hall has described time and again in the months since her cousin was killed.

She’s used her voice as a strong aboriginal woman to also draw attention to systemic shortcomings that appeared as the investigation into her cousin’s disappearance got underway in January of 2015.

“Both the initial response from the media and the RCMP speak to the marginalization of indigenous women. As a family we were appalled when the RCMP spokesperson portrayed Roxanne as another Indian woman just out partying. This dismissed the urgency of the situation and very real concerns her family had for her safety,” Hall said, in an interview.

“These concerns were very well articulated to both RCMP and media.”

While the frustration many felt at the event was palpable, the gathering was also a time for healing and a moment to express hope.

Aboriginal drums and song underscored the speeches—some of which touched upon solutions to the problems at hand.

“Today is one of those days…one of the most important days for me,” said Mary Song, event co-organizer.

“I have been at this event for the last four years and I have two dearly loved ones who are still missing today. And these two people hold a place in my heart so dear…that I pray for their families to get answers.

“I pray for their sisters, their children and all their families to gain the answers they deserve.”

To be able to know the answers of what happened to their loved ones, said Song, will allow those left behind to heal.

“Thank you for being here today and being present with us to make sure the inquiry is going to happen and these (questions) are going to be answered,” Song said.

The RCMP released a report nearly two years ago concluding there were 1,181 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls dating from 1980 to 2012, including 1,017 homicides and 164 missing persons.

Last year the numbers were updated to include 32 new homicides within RCMP jurisdiction from 2013 to 2014, as well as 11 new cases of missing indigenous women.

For many, those figures fell far short of addressing what is really happening in aboriginal communities, prompting a persistent call for an inquiry, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he would do, when he was campaigning for election.

On Monday, the Liberal government wrapped up the consultation phase of its promised national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Ottawa.

At a press conference held Wednesday, Canada’s minister for the status of women said the “depth and breadth of this tragedy is more than we thought.”

In another interview, Patty Hajdu pegged the number of missing or murdered women at closer to 4,000.

Within the next budget Hajdu said there will be measures to address some of the issues that fuel the violence, noting it wouldn’t be right to wait for a two-year inquiry to conclude.

At the weekend vigil, Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh said she hoped that all people would start taking the issue seriously today.

“This is not just a women’s issue, it’s a society issue,” she said.

“Today you and I have the power to change society and make it a better place. Please join me to work together to put an end to the cycle  of violence.”

 

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

(Big White Ski Resort/Contributed)
Big White’s big clean-up: Large turnout for post-melt mountain tidy

More than 165 people showed up to help gather the litter left behind from the winter season

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

(Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)
Delays expected on Lakeshore Road this week

Northbound traffic on Lakeshore between Richter and Barrera will be detoured for paving

David Larsen, left, and co-host Tony Peyton. (K96.3/Twitter)
Popular Kelowna radio host dies after battle with cancer

David Larsen was half of the longtime Kelowna morning-show duo David and Tony

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read