On the steps of Parliament Hill, David Charette struggles to talk about his sister, Cheyenne Fox.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said, his voice shaking.
Fox fell to her death from a Toronto high rise in April 2013. She was just 20 years old.Police ruled it a suicide. But Charette and the rest of the family are convinced it was murder. Charette is sharing her story to keep the spotlight on the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
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“If you have a sister, if you have a mother, if you have an aunt, any woman who's related to you, you should be out here right now supporting these people and supporting this cause,” said Charette, after offering a song on his hand drum to the dozens of people gathered on the Hill.
'I want people to recognize that we are not lying down for this.' - Lynda Kitchikeesic Juden
It’s the conclusion of a 24-hour vigil called Honouring Our Missing Sisters that began Mother’s Day on nearby Victoria Island. Ottawa’s aboriginal community and supporters met there for a ceremony and to share drum songs, before marching to Parliament Hill this morning.
“I want for people to never forget that we are missing so many of our women,” said organizer Lynda Kitchikeesic Juden. “I want people to recognize that we are not lying down for this.”
The RCMP recently confirmed that it has counted 1186 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada in the last three decades. So organizers planned this latest vigil to repeat calls for a national inquiry into the issue.
“You can’t lose almost 1200 women without doing something about it,” added Kitchikeesic Juden.
Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Alvin Fiddler agrees. He made the trip to Ottawa from Thunder Bay for today’s rally. He said “an inquiry would serve as a forum for these families to come forward with a sense of justice, a sense of accountability, and maybe even a sense of closure.”
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples is also echoing that call. In his report released today, James Anaya urges the federal government to launch a “comprehensive, nationwide inquiry” into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, among other recommendations.
'Nothing's gonna happen from government. They're not gonna move.' - Claudette Commanda
Federal Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt says the department will review Anaya’s report. But some here aren't holding their breath for an inquiry.
“Nothing's gonna happen from government,” said Claudette Commanda, band councillor for Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin community in Quebec. “They're not gonna move."
But Commanda promises the grassroots people will continue to push awareness and education of the issue.
"We have to educate the public out there, we have to educate Canadians, and we have to educate the international world.”
Inquiry or not, organizers of today’s rally say they’ll keep holding these events to raise awareness and honour missing and murdered aboriginal women.