Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 148, Issue 110
  Tuesday, October 23, 2012
 
Statement: Sisters in Spirit

.Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, October 4 is the day on which the Sisters in Spirit vigils are organized by the Native Women's Association of Canada. This year, about 160 vigils were held across the country.

The Sisters in Spirit movement is growing. In Saskatoon this year, about 250 people gathered at Oskayak High School to march through the streets to bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. I was one of the invited speakers.

Before 2005, much of Canada, and the world for that matter, was in the dark about this serious issue facing Aboriginal communities. Thanks to the excellent work of the Native Women's Association of Canada's Sisters in Spirit initiative, their statistical database shed a haunting light on the over 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in this country.

In addition, the Sisters in Spirit have gone further, to investigate the root causes of violence against women and girls in hopes of addressing the problem from the start, in our communities. It is safe to say that without Sisters in Spirit, we would still be in the dark.

This is a pressing issue that demands immediate action. We need the leadership from our federal government to take on this issue fully in hopes that a new generation of our children will no longer have to deal with this heartbreaking legacy.

Unfortunately, the current federal government has not taken the necessary leadership on this issue. In 2010, Sisters in Spirit's federal funding was cut, and funding was diverted into an RCMP Missing Persons Unit database which, unfortunately, will not be up and running until 2013. This has led to a national chorus of individuals and organizations calling for the federal government to establish a national inquiry on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. In fact, there was a call for a national public inquiry at the vigil in Saskatoon and across Canada on October 4.

The Sisters in Spirit vigil in Saskatoon was organized by members of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik, Amnesty International, Oskayak High School, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Women's Commission and the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation. This year, there was a greater number of youth involved, including young men. In fact, a young woman read a poem and a young man sang a song to express the impact of missing and murdered Aboriginal women on them.

In conjunction with the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women's Circle Corporation worked together to premier the play The Hours That Remain, which is based on the Highway of Tears and which premiered that evening. I found the play to be powerful. The playwright, Keith Barker, the director, David Storch, and the actors, Tara Beagan, Eli Ham and Keira Loughran, did an excellent job of drawing us into the chaotic, emotional and spiritual reactions of two family members of an Aboriginal woman who has gone missing. This play will bring the importance of this issue to the broader Canadian community and shows how missing and murdered Aboriginal women is not just a woman's issue. This play is showing in Toronto, starting October 19 through to November 3, at the Aki Studio Theatre. I hope that senators from Toronto, such as my good friend Senator Nancy Ruth, will take the opportunity to attend its showing