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National Day of Vigils to Remember Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women-October 4

What is it?

October 4th is a day to remember and honour the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. The National Day of Vigils began in 2006 when 11 vigils were held across the country, growing to 72 in 2009. This is an incredible increase in awareness and action that must continue and grow further.

With over 580 missing and murdered aboriginal women from communities all over Canada, every community has been affected by the loss of these women. The families of the women may also be scattered across Canada ultimately affecting more communities.

The violence experienced by Aboriginal women and girls in Canada is a national tragedy. We must stand together with the families of the women to demand action ensuring that those responsible for the murders are held accountable and that the human rights of Aboriginal women are addressed.

Each one of these women is loved and missed terribly by their family, friends and community. Their loss is our loss. Their grief is our grief. Together we must mourn the loss of these women's potential. Together we must demand action.

The vigils are an initiative of the Sisters in Spirit campaign of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International and KAIROS, among others.  The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) is one a national Aboriginal organizations that represents Aboriginal women, particularly First Nations and Métis women. NWAC has representation in meetings of Canadian leaders and is generally viewed as the national voice representing Aboriginal women in Canada.

Sisters in Spirit is a research, education and policy initiative driven and led by Aboriginal women. The primary goal is to conduct research and raise awareness of the alarmingly high rates of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, often leading to their disappearance and death.

What can I do?

  • Support the call for a national plan of action by NWAC, Amnesty International and others outlined in 2009:
    • “We call for a national plan of action that:
    • Recognizes the violence faced by Aboriginal women because they are Aboriginal and because they are women,
    • Ensures effective and unbiased police response through appropriate training, resources and coordination,
    • Improves public awareness and accountability through the consistent collection and publication of comprehensive national statistics on rates of violent crime against Aboriginal women,
    • Reduces the risk to Aboriginal women by closing the economic and social gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada; and,
    • Improves the child welfare system.”
  • Support the implementation of recommendations outlined in the Strategic Framework to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women in Ontario and call for the Province to provide appropriate resources to ensure implementation is effective.
  • Recognize that the level of violence experienced by Aboriginal women is disproportionate and more severe—the outcome of colonization and ongoing racism against Aboriginal people and sexism against Aboriginal women. This is true whether they are living in rural, urban or isolated communities.
  • Speak out as individuals and organizations. As women we must demand action to ensure that the rights and safety of Aboriginal sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers are respected and protected.
  • Support or host a vigil in solidarity and collaboration with Aboriginal women in your community. You can find out how to do this by contacting NWAC at: http://www.nwac.ca/contact-nwac or by calling 613-722-3033 or 1-800-461-4043 (toll-free).

The Sisters in Spirit initiative:

In 2005, the SIS initiative gathered critical statistical information on the issue of violence against Aboriginal women. To date the horrific findings of this data are that there are more than 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.

SIS investigates the root causes of violence against the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers while working closely with the families to ensure their experiences and recommendations are documented and that the memories of their loved ones are respected and never forgotten.

Read many of the women’s stories and the findings of the SIS initiative in: What Their Stories Tell Us: Research findings from the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

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