Indigenous

Families commemorate first official MMIWG day in Manitoba

About 200 people gathered at Legislature to honour Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls

Lenard Monkman - CBC News

October 04, 2017

NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine hugs one of the family members in attendance Wednesday at the Manitoba Legislature. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

About 200 people gathered at the Manitoba legislature Wednesday as the province marked the inaugural day to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The event began with an opening prayer and included a pipe ceremony for families that have lost a loved one.

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"It's an opportunity to lift up families and to show that we support and care and love all of the work that they are doing, in respect of seeking justice and recognition for their loved one," said Nahanni Fontaine.

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Photographs of missing women on the ledge in the Manitoba Legislative Building rotunda Wednesday. About 200 people gathered to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls for the inaugural day. (Paul Wildinette/CBC)
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Salina Kemp hung red dresses around Saint Mary's University to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Halifax October 4, 2017 (Nic Meloney/CBC)
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"Today, there are roughly 4,000 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. It's important to get the message across to let people know and educate them so they are aware of this crisis," said Ashley Nash, co-chair of the Wolastoqiyik Sisters in Spirit planning committee. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)
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Red dresses are draped in trees in Vancouver's Seaforth Peace Park as part of the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Wednesday. (CBC)
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People gather inside the Manitoba Legislative Building's rotunda Wednesday. About 200 people gathered to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls for the inaugural day. (Paul Wildinette/CBC)
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Before the Sisters in Spirit march in Yellowknife Wednesday, people stood for a minute of silence for MMIWG. The inaugural Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Honour and Awareness Day was held on Oct. 4. (Marc Winkler/CBC)
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N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre and Greater Sudbury Police led a march through downtown Sudbury, as well as a drum circle in Memorial Park in honour of MMIWG. Dozens gathered to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls for the inaugural day. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)
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Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde marked the inaugural Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls day in Ottawa. (Perry Bellegarde/Submitted)
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People march in Calgary Wednesday for the inaugural Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls day. They started at Stephen Avenue Mall and 3rd Street S.W. (Geneviève Normand/Radio-Canada/CBC)
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About 150 people joined the march in Calgary, which was hosted by the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society. (Scott Dippel/CBC)
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The Calgary march ended with a vigil and ceremony in Olympic Plaza. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Fontaine, MLA for St. Johns, introduced Bill 221 to the Manitoba government last year. The bill, called the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Honouring and Awareness Day Act, made Manitoba the first provincial government in Canada to have an official day to honour MMIWG.

The event, held inside the rotunda at the Manitoba Legislature, saw many families joined together for the pipe ceremony.

"One of the things that we wanted to do, is we wanted to start this day in a really good way, in a ceremonial way," said Fontaine.

"It's an opportunity to lift up families and to show that we support and care and love all of the work that they are doing in respect of seeking justice and recognition for their loved one."

Fontaine said while she's proud to have played a part in getting the day officially recognized in Manitoba, she was happier to see a large number of families come together for the event.

"It was such a beautiful thing to see so many people here coming out to show that support. I'm glad just to be a small part of having had facilitated that. It makes you proud, but it makes you even more proud as a community when we come together like this."

Families still searching for answers

Barb Houle's daughter Cherisse Houle went missing in May of 2009. Her body was found in July that year and the case remains unsolved. Barb Houle's son Jordan was also murdered three years after her daughter disappeared.

For Houle, bringing people together for an official day to honour and remember loved ones is something that helps her to heal.

"I pray for the families that are going through what I am going through, I'm glad that this is getting more awareness," said Houle. "When this first happened to my family, none of this was like this at all. But now that I see the community coming together more and more, so I'm happy about that."

Karen Smith attended the ceremony on Wednesday. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Karen Smith was also at the Legislature Wednesday to support family and friends who have lost loved ones. She said she just moved back to Winnipeg from her reservation.

"I feel sorry for the families that have lost people," said Smith. "I couldn't imagine. Support is needed for the people that have lost members."

Smith's younger cousin Lisa went missing more than 20 years ago.  "She was a young girl when she left.

"I would think that if anybody that goes through it, there is support for families. All nations. And that's what's happening here."

Events were held across Canada Wednesday to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Families commemorate first official MMIWG day in Manitoba  2:27

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of independent Indigenous media:Red Rising Magazine. He is currently employed as an Associate Producer for CBC Indigenous.

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