More than 20 people holding signs and drums marched through the heavy rain from Thunderbird Mall to Carrot Park in Port Hardy to raise awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and girls.
The march, which took place on Friday, Oct.6, was part of a week full of activities to mark Oct. 4, the day when Sisters in Spirit Vigil’s are hosted throughout the country where people honour the lives of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.
Sisters in Spirit Vigils are an initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre also hosted a vigil at their temporary location in Thunderbird Mall, with the march following at the end of the week.
“Today I offered to host this walk and it’s an important day to end this week,” said Janet Hanuse, Executive Director of Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre, adding “I hope everybody can hold onto the courage to make this change and use your voice and start fighting for our own women that didn’t have that protection or that safety.”
Hanuse said another event she hopes the community will embrace is the Moosehide campaign fast on Oct. 5, which challenges men to fast for 24 hours to show their support for ending violence against women and children.
“It’s not an official day named by the government, but it’s included in this whole processes of creating awareness of our missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada,” said Hanuse. “Port Hardy hasn’t got on board with the fast, the point of the Moose Hide campaign is that it is male driven, male-initiated, and women are asked to leave it in the hands of men, and if they are not doing it, we need to create more awareness.”
After walking through town, the march concluded in Carrot Park, where participants were invited to share a song or story to mark the day.
“I heard Janet say as we were walking down here ‘it’s raining’ and I thought – these are tears of the murdered and missing women – these are the tears of the government taking action and so far nothing is being done,” said Port Hardy Coun. Pat Corbett-Labatt.
Corbett-Labatt said her daughter-in-law’s sister is Michelle Shaw, one of the murdered and missing women. “This is someone that is from this nation, there is more than her, there is a roll call of people from up in this area that are murdered and missing,” said Corbett-Labatt. “I feel really strongly that your words and your voices are heard so don’t stop.”
Shaw’s Aunt Monica also spoke, saying “my niece Michelle was murdered eleven years ago, and I thought eleven years later it would get easier, but it doesn’t and when I was walking down here all the memories came flooding back.”
Before the march concluded with a prayer, Hanuse said that while she doesn’t have a personal experience with someone who has been murdered or is missing, “my heart is still raw and sore and I am grieving and mourning with everybody.”
She concluded by saying that a lot of people “are going to be emotional – reach out to the ones that aren’t here today and need to be, reach out and give a hug and send your love.”