North

Sisters in Spirit Yellowknife, walking for the North's missing and murdered women

A walk to remember and honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will go ahead in Yellowknife today, despite a recent break-in at the Native Women's Association.

'By walking, by helping with the activities and organizing it, I'm saying that I'm thinking about them'

Walk organizers Mishelle Lavoie and Marie Speakman, who both work with Native Women's Association in Yellowknife (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Today, Canadians across the country will walk together to remember and honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

In Yellowknife, the Sisters in Spirit walk is being organized by the Native Women's Association of the N.W.T.

"I always think about by doing this, by walking, by helping with the activities and organizing it, I'm saying that I'm thinking about them and I'm doing this in honor of them and I care," says Marie Speakman, a victim services worker with the association, who is helping organize the event.

"I know it's a sensitive topic and people can shy away from it. But I always think about this walk as helping to make more awareness, that it's not only happening in the south but in the North too.

"They don't have to say anything, but really to walk with us."

Furs stolen in break-in

The walk comes just days after about 20 pelts of furs, worth hundreds of dollars, were stolen from the association's office in Yellowknife.

The thief, or thieves, climbed up to the second floor of the building and broke in through a window using a rock.

"We were quite frightened when we came through [Monday] and realized the extent of the damage, the extent of the violence in this office," said Alisa Praamsma, the group's executive director, who learned about the break-in Sunday night.

Praamsma said she's not sure if they'll continue to sell furs if it's going to make them a target for robbery.

The Victim Services Office was also broken into, she said, but no one got access to the computer containing client's personal information. RCMP are investigating.

Bring walking shoes

The break-in won't stop Tuesday's walk from going ahead. 

People are asked to meet at the gym in N'dilo by 11:15 a.m., says Speakman.

And wear good walking shoes. At 11:30, people will walk together across town to Northern United Place where there will be speeches, a hot lunch and a candlelight vigil.  

There will be pictures of some of the North's missing or murdered women and girls to help people remember them, says Speakman. 

At least 33 cases in the North

In March 2010, the Native Women's Association Canada released a fact sheet entitled "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls in the North." It gathered information about 33 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in the North: 12 in the Northwest Territories, six in Yukon, and 15 in Nunavut.

Together, these cases account for 6 per cent of NWAC's database.

The recent death of well-known Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook has drawn national attention to the issue. Her body was found in the Rideau River in Ottawa on Sept. 19, and police are calling it suspicious.

A special tribute is being planned for Pootoogook tomorrow in Ottawa as part of its Sisters in Spirit vigil.

now