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.
"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.
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 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.