Solid student body turnout helps spread the message
By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer
This past week on October 1 at the New Westminster campus, the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) held a Sisters in Spirit Vigil. The annual vigil is put on to raise awareness for the many missing and murdered First Nations women across Canada.
The inspiring event was held in the main concourse and brought in a large number of students, many of whom were attracted by the offerings of coffee and bannock but stayed for the important message. Madison Paradis-Woodman, DSU college relations coordinator, said that the “main purpose of this event is to remember and honour the 582 recorded cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada.”
One way this was done was to allow event participants the chance to create faceless dolls. These aboriginal-themed dolls were representative of the “faceless” missing women—faceless because Canada is largely ignoring the issue. The goal of the Faceless Dolls Project is to create a visual representation of the missing and ignored women. Many students got into the spirit of the event and put together the dolls, which were on display in the concourse for all to see.
The Sisters in Spirit Vigil has significant meaning for the Lower Mainland, since this is one of Canada’s epicentres in the missing aboriginal women’s saga. Both the Downtown Eastside’s record of missing women, and the actions of serial killer Robert Pickton—who admitted to the murders of 49 women, including First Nations women—make this a very personal and important issue to local citizens.
According to statistics from the government of Canada, aboriginal women are five to seven times more likely to die from violence, compared to other women. It’s for reasons such as this that Paradis-Woodman had students at the event sign and fill out postcards “to send directly to Prime Minister Harper asking to start a formal national inquiry into the missing women.”
It doesn’t appear, though, that Prime Minster Harper will take action and launch an inquiry. This past May while at an event hosted by the Council for Foreign Relations in New York City, Harper stated that he “[remains] very skeptical of commissions of inquiry generally. My experience has been they almost always run way over time, way over budget, and often the recommendations prove to be of limited utility.”
The Canadian Government may not be taking much action on the issue, but other groups are picking up the slack and offering hope to affected parties. United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya will be in Canada for a week-long analysis looking, as he says, “at the issues faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada, including in relation to matters of reconciliation, governance and self-government; lands and resources; and health, education and economic development.”
Though there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the many cases of missing aboriginal women, events such as the Sisters in Spirit Vigil are spreading hope throughout Canadian communities.