According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) there were nearly 600 documented cases of aboriginal women who were murdered or went missing between 2005 and 2010.
“It’s a national crisis,” said Judy Hughes, president of the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corporation (SAWCC), during a “Sisters in Spirit” vigil October 4 at City Centre Park.
The event was held to honour the lives of missing and/or murdered aboriginal women and girls; support grieving families and provide opportunities for healing; and support a movement for social change.
Sisters in Spirit (SIS) began as a research, education and policy initiative of NWAC in 2005 and continues to operate with the objective “to educate and ensure effective access to justice for families of missing Aboriginal women through awareness of police training and resources to deal with reports of all missing aboriginal women without discrimination.”
The Yorkton vigil was one of more than 200 held across the country Friday address the problem. Following an opening prayer by Elder Sylvia Popowich and speeches by Keeseekoose Chief Leonard Keshane, Yorkton Mayor Bob Maloney and Cpl. Donald Dyker of the municipal RCMP detachment, Hughes outlined the ongoing efforts of NWAC, SAWCC and SIS with particular emphasis on a call to action for a national inquiry.
In July, a delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders convinced the provincial premiers to get behind the inquiry, Hughes said.
Despite pressure from the Provinces, a recommendation by the United Nations Human Rights Commission and support from all the opposition parties, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has remained reticent about calling an inquiry saying he is “skeptical” about their effectiveness and that recommendations resulting from them often “prove to be of limited utility.”
Instead, the Conservatives say it is time for action, action they claim to have already taken by passing legislation that gives women living on reserve access to emergency protection orders, providing new tools to law enforcement agencies, improving the justice system and creating a National Centre for Missing Persons.
At the end of the Yorkton vigil, participants released 24 balloons, 18 for the number of Saskatchewan aboriginal women known to be missing and a few extras, Hughes said, for the ones they don’t know about.