MORE than 100 friends and relatives held burning candles under calm dark skies as they circled the Manitoba Legislature Saturday night in a vigil to remember the missing and murdered aboriginal women of Manitoba.
"There are people I haven't seen out at these events before. It's nice to see people come out who aren't directly affected," said Bernadette Smith, sister of Claudette Osborne-Tyo who disappeared more than three years ago.
The vigil opened at the fountain behind the legislature with prayers, an appearance by social satirists The Raging Grannies and appeals from relatives of the missing and murdered.
A procession circled the legislature, candles cupped in shields to guard their flames. Many in the march wore brightly coloured cardboard placards in the shape of butterflies. Each was marked with the photo and name of a missing woman.
A joint task force of RCMP and Winnipeg Police puts the count of missing and murdered mostly aboriginal women at more than 80 in Manitoba but last night, there were dozens more placards than people to wear them.
"Some of these go back to the 1970s. If you look at all the placards I'd say it's 100s," said Smith, who spearheaded the vigil.
There are more than 589 missing and murdered women in Canada according to data released by the Native Women's Association of Canada that dedicates the vigils each year. Many put the numbers much higher. Smith said she believes the real number is closer to 3,000 across Canada.
The vigil in Winnipeg was the second since August but this time the sweet mournful refrains of folk songs were replaced with the solemn sound of Anishinabe honour songs and the steady beat of hand drums.
A statement from the Native Women's Association of Canada called on all levels of government to work with aboriginal women and representative organizations to establish a comprehensive, national plan of action to stop violence against women.
Across the country this week, there were vigils like the one in Winnipeg.