Peace River “Sisters in Spirit” walk and vigil takes place on October 4

Above: Traditional Aboriginal drummers and singers taking part in last year’s ‘Sisters in Spirit’ walk and vigil in Peace River.

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

Peace River “Sisters in Spirit” walk and vigil begins at 5pm on Thursday October 4

Organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) the Sisters in Spirit is a Canada-wide initiative begun in 2006, to encourage research and raise awareness of the exceptionally high incidents of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

This violence is not just a tragedy for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities but a tragedy for all Canadians who must share in the grief and push for change to the underlying social and economic causes of this national tragedy.

Having begun with approximately eleven gatherings in 2006, over the past 12 years that number has grown to hundreds of vigils and marches across the country.

The mission of these vigils is to bring to the fore the plight of the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls and to offer support and empathy to the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

Many of these families still don’t know the fate of their loved ones, and so they are unable to properly grieve, lay their family members to rest and begin to come to terms with their loss.

As the poster for the Sisters in Spirit events says:

“We are speaking out because we believe this violence should be of urgent concern to everyone in Canada. More important, this concern should lead to action, action to ensure that the rights and safety of our Aboriginal sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers are respected and protected.”

The Peace River Sisters in Spirit walk and vigil is coordinated locally by the Peace River Aboriginal Interagency Committee (AIC), a committee comprised of representatives from various organizations and agencies in the region who coordinate their efforts to support Aboriginal families and their communities.

The Peace River walk and vigil, which is one of the largest in northern Alberta, predates the national Sisters in Spirit event and was originally organized by Brenda Brochu, former director of the Peace River Regional Women’s Shelter.

“One of the things that is unique about our walk in Peace River is that we have a good mix of people from the surrounding area,” says Wendy Goulet, AIC administrator and principal coordinator of the Sisters in Spirit event.

The Mayor of Peace River along with other local officials and organizations takes part and individuals from the surrounding area including many from the non-aboriginal community participate.

A significant development on the horizon for next year is the report from of the National Enquiry into Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls, scheduled for June 2019.

“The National Enquiry was a grassroots call to action for the Federal Government and that links to the Sisters in Spirit event,” says Goulet, “Unfortunately, even with the enquiry going on we are still adding names to the list.”

Because October 4 is a national day, there will be walks also in Grande Prairie, High Prairie and Valleyview.

This will be the second year Valleyview has organized the walk.

“I helped a woman in Valleyview, Rolanda Thomas setup the walk there,” says Goulet. “Rolanda’s sister, Roxanne Isadore has been missing since 2007. Roxanne was raised by her grandparents and now her grandparents are raising Roxanne’s three children, which makes it sad when you see that cycle.”

Goulet also visited the Peace River High School Aboriginal 30 class to get them involved.

“They made 200 tobacco ties and a lot of them are coming to support the walk and bringing their parents so that is good. It’s good to get the youth involved.”

Those who wish to participate in the Peace River Sisters in Spirit walk and vigil, the walk leaves from the front of the Peace River Museum at 5pm, and will make its way across Heart River Bridge, through downtown to Riverfront Park.

The memorial service begins at 5.30 pm at Riverfront Park with testimonies from family and friends of missing and murdered women and girls. Aboriginal men who are missing or have been murdered will also be remembered at the service.

There will be fellowship at 7.30pm and Paul Hebert’s Thursday “Picnic in the Park” will provide some light refreshments.

For more information please call: Wendy Goulet at 780-219.8047.

Participants in the first Town of Valleyview ‘Sisters in Spirit’ walk and vigil which took place on October 4, 2017.

 

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