Maritime vigils mark day for missing, slain aboriginal women
Vigils were held across the Maritimes on Sunday as part of a country-wide event to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
It was the fourth annual Sisters in Spirit event.
In New Brunswick, the Elsipogtog First Nation held a church service and candlelight vigil for one of their own, Gladys Simon.
Simon went missing from the Campbellton Regional Hospital in 2004 and hasn't been seen since.
Her sister, Andrea Colfer, said she hasn't stopped thinking about her or praying for her.
"It's a difficult thing to live with, surviving somebody that you don't know where they are, or what happened to them," she said.
The vigils help raise awareness about the cases of missing women but also serve as an outlet for family and friends to acknowledge the painful absence of a loved one, Colfer said.
The vigil she attended was particularly emotional, she said, not only because it highlighted her sister's disappearance but because it also touched on the recent disappearance of 16-year-old Hilary Bonnell from northeastern New Brunswick.
It's difficult to see another community go through the same pain, Colfer said.
Bonnell was last seen on Sept. 5, walking along Highway 11 after she and friends attended a party the night before on the Eskinuopitijk First Nation. Eskinuopitijk, northeast of Miramichi, is commonly known as Burnt Church.
Police and people on the reserve continue to search for Bonnell. Meanwhile, her cousin, Jeannie Bartibogue, helped organize a pipe ceremony over the weekend to honour her.
The vigils offer much-needed support to families that are struggling, said Bartibogue.
"That's what's keeping our courage and hope and love alive, through these ceremonies … taking place in our communities," she said.
The Native Women's Association of Canada has documented 520 aboriginal women and girls who have been murdered or who disappeared, mostly in the past three decades.
A total of 72 Sisters in Spirit events are scheduled across the country this year, up from 11 in 2006.
Among the Maritime events, a remembrance walk was scheduled for Sunday in Charlottetown, from Peakes Quay Wharf to Province House.
The Wagmatcook First Nation in Cape Breton, N.S., has a vigil scheduled for Monday.
And the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick has its ceremony scheduled for Oct. 18.