A public gathering honouring the lives of Tina Fontaine and Faron Hall will be held on the banks of the Red River this evening.
The community is invited to come together at the Alexander Docks for a moment of silence and reflection, beginning at 7 p.m.
Following the peaceful gathering, all participants are invited to walk to the recently-installed Monument for Murdered Missing Aboriginal Women near the Oodena Circle at The Forks, where offerings can be made in the memory of the two individuals.
The bodies of both Fontaine and Hall were pulled from the Red River Sunday.
Fontaine, a 15-year-old Sagkeeng girl, had been missing since Aug. 9 and was in the care of Child and Family Services. Her body was found wrapped in a plastic bag near the docks Sunday, and Winnipeg police are treating her death as a homicide.
Organizer Niigaan Sinclair, one of many who helped put together the event, said tonight is not only about remembrance but about inspiring change.
"First and foremost, this is about honoring the beautiful lives of two people we are all lesser for having lost," the assistant professor in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba offered this morning. "But there are hundreds of other reasons why this event is crucially important for the community, for the public and for Canada as a whole.
"(The murder of Aboriginal women) is an epidemic in our country."
Sinclair adds there are approximately 1,200 murdered/missing Aboriginal women in Canada since 1980.
"There continues to be little to no projects or policies to engage this issue. It continues to be ignored by authorities," he said. "It has to stop."
Hall, who was in his late 40s, was known as the ‘Homeless Hero’ for his role in rescuing two people from the Red River in separate occasions in 2009. The Dakota Tipi man’s efforts earned national attention, receiving the Winnipeg’s mayor’s Medal of Valour along with two medals from the Manitoba Life Saving Society for his courage.
Hall’s body was found near Kildonan Park Sunday. His death is not considered a homicide.
Organizers expect upwards of 1,000 people to attend the ceremonies at Alexander Docks and at The Forks tonight.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs put out a statement this afternoon on the deaths, calling for "concrete actions that require unity amongst the First Nation community and the government to prevent such incidents to continue to happen."
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak offered this message in the release:
"Our First Nation youth are crying out for help without being heard. The systems in place to help families heal and rebuild strength are not functioning the way they should be and we are losing our young people to predators and those who have no regard for the sacredness of life."
Nepinak also passed along condolences to the families of Fontaine and Hall, adding that "the strength and prayers of a hundred and fifty thousand of our people are with them at this time."