HALIFAX - First Nation leaders, women's groups, elders and youth today gathered in a Circle of Hope in Halifax today, offering a special tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women during the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Assembly taking place at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre this week.
The Circle of Hope gathering, organized by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association (NSNWA), the Mi'kmaq Native Friendship Centre and the Host Committee for the Annual General Meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), coincided with resolutions being considered by the AFN's membership which is holding its annual meeting in Halifax, July 15-17.
Almost 1200 Murdered and Missing Women
According to the latest statistics released by the RCMP there are 1,181 murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada. Aboriginal women accounted for 16% of female homicides and 11.3 % of missing women.
Cheryl Maloney, President of NSNWA said, “Based on the proportion of Aboriginal women in Canada these numbers are three to four times higher than the number of non-Aboriginal women who were either murdered or missing.” Ms. Maloney added, “Unless and until we get to the reasons why, the number of Aboriginal women whose lives will be cut short or who will vanish without a trace will continue to grow and more First Nation families and communities will be devastated.”
Michele Audette, President of NWAC said, “We are here in solidarity to say that each and every woman counted among the almost 1200 who were murdered or are missing deserves justice. We will continue to speak up for them and for their families until the Federal Government responds to our pleas and takes concrete action to end the violence against Indigenous women.” She said events like the Circle of Hope help to capture the public's attention. “We are grateful for the support we continue to receive from members of the non-Aboriginal community, but also recognize that too many Canadians are still unaware of the pain this is causing First Nations people. The goal of the Circle of Hope and similar events held throughout the country is to help educate and enlighten the public to this national travesty so that they join us in demanding justice for all. ”
Action Demanded on Murdered and Missing Women
Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis also spoke at the event, continuing calls for a National Public Commission of Inquiry as well as for urgent and direct action to prevent violence against women and girls.
“We demand immediate action based on the fact that not one more woman or girl can be victimized and that no family member should spend another day without answers,” said AFN Regional Chief Cameron Alexis. “Ending violence against Indigenous women is an urgent priority for First Nations across the country, and AFN continues the call for a coordinated National Action Plan, including a National Public Commission of Inquiry, as well as immediate direct investments in shelters and preventative support measures to keep the most vulnerable of our citizens safe and secure.”
The Circle of Hope gathering opened with an honour song, followed by a moving tribute to murdered and missing women and their families read by Karly Johnson entitled 1,181, and concluded with a round dance.