The Stratford chapter of Amnesty International, and members of local Indigenous communities will hold a day-long Sisters in Spirit event Thursday, honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
In line with the national movement, local women’s groups, the Stratford chapter of Amnesty International, and members of local Indigenous communities will hold a day-long Sisters in Spirit event Thursday, honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Beginning with a sunrise smudging ceremony and the lighting of a sacred fire at 7:15 a.m. in Market Square, the event will see more than 20 local businesses and organizations displaying red dresses throughout the day to raise awareness of the cause.
Inspired by the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black, the dresses symbolize the absence of over 1,000 Indigenous women across Canada. Information on the red dresses downtown will invite the public to attend a vigil that will begin in Market Square at 7 p.m.
During the vigil, Patsy Day and Winona Sands, both Indigenous women, will speak to the cause.
Day, of the Turtle Clan, Oneida Nation, is a teacher who was orphaned at the age of six as a result of the assimilation policies in the federal government’s Indian Act. Having reconnected with her family as an adult, Day regained her native status and now teaches people of all ages about Indigenous people in Canada.
Sands, a member of the Bkejwanong Band on the Walpole Island First Nations Reserve on Lake Erie, is the community chef at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford. Sands, who has been cooking for most of her life, has also worked as an addictions counsellor, social worker, and support worker for Indigenous women and children, and as a women’s advocate at the Atlohsa Native Family Healing Centre in London.
“As the Native Women’s Association emphasizes, this is a national tragedy — the disproportionate violence that Indigenous women and girls face and the disproportionate risk of murder,” said Anne Carbert, a volunteer with the Stratford chapter of Amnesty International, one of a few groups working to orchestrate Thursday’s event.
“This is something that the national inquiry is looking into currently, and our governments are needing to figure out how to respond. I think bringing awareness to that, paying attention to that process, showing support for families that are suffering… is very important.”
According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous women and girls in Canada are at least three times more likely to experience violence, and at least six times more likely to be murdered than any other woman or girl in Canada.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has
worked for more than four decades to document the systemic violence impacting Indigenous women, girls, their families, and communities.
The association is a lead organizer of the Sisters In Spirit Vigils, a national movement that encourages concerned citizens and
Indigenous community members to gather on October 4th.
For more information on the Sisters in Spirit Vigils, visit www.nwac.ca/home/policy-areas/violence-prevention-and-safety/sisters-in-spirit/october-4th-vigils/.
To learn more about the Stratford vigil, visit the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/519166718495072/.