New Brunswick

'It's a genocide': People of Pabineau First Nation urge more be done for MMIWG

The vigil, the first of several in the north of the province, aims to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Vigil first of several in northern New Brunswick, as people call for action following national inquiry

Shelley Francis has been working to bridge the gap in the relationship between Indigenous people and police in northern N.B. (CBC News)

For the dozens of people on Pabineau First Nation who attended a vigil and march Wednesday to honour their missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the night stirred a lot of emotion.

"It hits hard," said Rosemarie Boucher.

"Maybe by doing this, the people will see that it's become almost like a catastrophe, a genocide."

Most people on Pabineau First Nation have a story to tell about a loved one they never saw again.

The vigil, the first of several in the north of the province, aimed to raise awareness, not just to those outside the community, but within it as well.

Rosemarie Boucher attended the vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on Pabineau First Nation Wednesday. (CBC News)

"People in communities will often have conversations about their recall of the last time they've seen this person, or wondering, 'I wonder whatever happened to that person,'" said Shelley Francis, co-ordinator of prevention and awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in northern New Brunswick.

"That's the type of conversation we want to stop ... I think people are very afraid to speak."

Part of her work has been reaching out to RCMP to build relationships with First Nations communities, and trying to repair some of the distrust. She has also been working with the health authority on training staff to help First Nations patients.

"Indigenous people in the community sometimes feel that they're not being taken seriously," she said.

Disappointed with inquiry

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, which released its report in June, was a good start, said Francis, but much work remains.

"It makes me saddened that the inquiry was so rushed. Because I think with that additional time and funding we would've been able to get a lot of the underlying reasons," she said.

Pabineau Councillor Terry Richardson also feels there's been no action, and that's why he says communities like his feel they have to keep pressure on the government.

Pabineau Councillor Terry Richardson said he's participating in the march because he feels no action was taken following the federal report into MMIWG. (CBC News)

"The poverty levels within our First Nations communities, the lack of employment, the addiction issues — those are the issues that have to be addressed as well. That's one of the things that I'm a little disappointed with the inquiry, that I don't think it really laid down a plan of action," said Richardson.

Throughout the community, red dresses and ties have been hung on trees as a call to action.

They represent love, pain, and tragedy, and honouring the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls — and men.

Red dresses have been hung throughout the community, a symbol of love, pain and tragedy, in memory of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (CBC News)

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