WINNIPEG — Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends came together to remember more than 70 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Manitoba Sunday night.
More than 300 people bundled up to attend the fourth annual Sisters in Spirit vigil at The Forks, one of 72 such events around the country.
Merle Greene, executive director of the Mother of Red Nations Women’s Council of Manitoba, which hosted the event, said she wanted to honour the memory of the victims and thank all of their families for the strength they have shown under such trying circumstances.
By issuing a joint statement with the Native Women’s Association of Canada, she said, the two organizations hoped to kick-start a movement that would create a safer environment for aboriginal women.
"In order to eliminate the violence against aboriginal women, we have to get to the root causes like racialized violence and the social-economic gap (with non-aboriginal people)," she said.
Greene also called upon aboriginal men to acknowledge and fulfill their roles as husbands, fathers and providers.
"We’re asking all aboriginal men to stand up and make a safe place for aboriginal women," she said.
A variety of entertainers performed for the crowd, many of whom perused a wall decorated with pictures, poems and stories about each of the victims. There were even T-shirts adorned with the images of several of the women for sale.
Sierra Noble, a homegrown fiddle player, singer and songwriter, played a short set around a roaring fire pit, including a song she dedicated to the victims, "The Warrior’s Lament." The 19-year-old Metis woman said she was happy to donate her time to such an important cause.
"As somebody who has been affected by abuse in my life, being a part of an event like this is dear to my heart. That song is to honour them in this fight," she said.
Former Winnipeg Blub Bombers’ kicker Troy Westwood was among those paying their respects at the vigil. He said domestic abuse of women everywhere is one of the most pressing issues in Canada today.
"It’s eating away at the souls of the women, they’re the foundation of our society. The effects it has on children leads to madness. The responsibility to completely eradicate abuse and domestic violence lays heavily on the shoulders of men," he said.