You know all women from birth to death
We seek your knowledge
We seek your strength
Some are STARS up there with you
Some are STARS on Mother Earth
Grandmother, lighten our path in the dark
Creator, keep our sisters safe from harm
Maa duu? Mussi Cho
October 5th marks a day when all across Canada, communities stand up and light a candle to show support for their sisters. A sister is a comrade, a friend, and a member of our society who have been forgotten. All across Canada, Aboriginal women are treated as sub standard persons. Originally and historically subjected under the Indian Act, and relegated to second or third class status in many communities, aboriginal women are targeted for sexual crimes and murder at much higher rates than any other race. While thousands of women are reported missing and hundreds are found dead every year, little is done about it. We pride ourselves on living in a free and equal society, and beyond our backyards, there is an entire demographic many chose to ignore completely; preying upon these women as their status within this country has been steadily diminished.
Lethbridge celebrated our sisters in spirit with a candlelight vigil in Galt Gardens. As hundreds of Lethbridge citizens gathered to recognize the lives lost and vulnerability of these individuals, key speakers took to the modest stage to reflect on what the losses meant to them and to their community. As mothers and fathers shared the loss of their daughters to the community, slowly the gravity of the situation levied itself upon me.
I, like many others who attended the vigil, will not be able too easily forget the outburst of emotion that poured from the mothers and the father who gave us the gift of insight. As they fought back tears and became impassioned with the injustice, the members present witnessed the effect of what disregarding of human life does. The affect it has on not just the immediate family members, but also the community as a whole.
Although I know little about the members that spoke out that evening, nor have I interacted with them or their families, I felt the sadness and despair that radiated. As crimes were re-told and the injustice of the situation glared obvious, the flames coming from our small candles suddenly meant more than a token symbol of solidarity.
Each flame was a life taken in a violent and perverse manner. Sexual crimes are often committed in these cases and many times they go unsolved by both the local police and/or the RCMP. Band police have little resources and can be prone to the same prejudice and judgmental attitude as the police governed by a local city council.
It is truly each person’s responsibility to ensure that no woman, man, or child is regarded as less than a person. Laying aside prejudice and judgmental attitudes go a long way to protecting the human rights of these women. Each and every one of them deserves the kind words of a stranger and respect from the authority. They are not just a statistic, another dead aboriginal woman; they are our Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Cousins, and Aunts. They deserved life, as any other human being and they deserved to have their lives respected.
Lethbridge mourned the loss of these women and hoped for better future for all those who are preyed upon. The community was strong that night with men, women, children, police, and elders standing together, shivering in the cold night, and gripping their thin candles.
Belief in a better future is what gives hope, but it is up to us to ensure that our hope means something. Without it, we are lost.