Indigenous

In-person, online events across the country planned to honour MMIWG2S

Families and friends of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people are planning marches and online events to honour their loved ones this Valentine's Day.

Advocates in Montreal call on people from all backgrounds to join public vigil

Nakuset, director of the Native Women's Shelter in Montreal, says Monday's vigil in Montreal will be an opportunity for people to learn and be a part of the calls to justice for MMIWG2S. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Families and friends of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people are planning marches and online events to honour their loved ones this Valentine's Day.

"It's a real opportunity for the general public to learn something … from different people who are doing advocacy or direct work, for missing and murdered Indigenous women," said Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

In Montreal, Quebec Native Women, the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal and the Iskweu Project have partnered to bring back a vigil that had been on hiatus for four years.

The vigil, which starts at 6 p.m. ET, will include a walk and guest speakers including MMIWG family members and Sen. Michèle Audette, a former commissioner of the MMIWG inquiry.

Nakuset said the vigil will push allies to think about the inquiry's 2019 final report, and how to get its 231 calls to justice implemented.

"It's for the general public that sees red dresses or reads articles about it, but doesn't actually get to be involved in any way," said Nakuset.

Online event in Winnipeg

In Winnipeg, starting at 4 p.m. CT, organizers at Manitoba Moon Voices Inc. will host a private online event for families. 

"How can we do something that's safe and it's going to have an impact with the families without gathering? We thought,  what better way than getting together over food and teachings," said Shannon Hoskie, Manitoba Moon Voices' executive director.

People attend the Feb. 14 march in Winnipeg in 2019. This year, organizers from Manitoba Moon Voices Inc. opted for an online event. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Hoskie said families have been struggling with the cost of food, so they sent out gift certificates and plan on having elder Leslie Spillett share traditional teachings with the participants over Zoom.

"Leslie will share teachings on how to honour our loved ones that have gone on before us and how to instill respect and honour our loved ones that remain," said Hoskie.

Walk in Cranbrook, B.C.

Starting at 1 p.m. PT, Arlene Henry will lead a walk in Cranbrook, B.C., billed as the community's first MMIWG event.

"I really want people to hold space for themselves long enough to heal," said Henry, who is originally from Dzawada'enuxw First Nation (Kingcome Inlet), and lives in Cranbrook.

Henry said she is organizing the walk to honour the memory of her mother Lavina Henry, aunt Janet Henry and friend William Warbrick who was lost to violence two years ago.

Arlene Henry, holding a photo of her aunt Janet Henry, will be leading an MMIWG walk in Cranbrook, B.C. (Submitted by Arlene Henry)

She said she plans on bringing in someone from the Rocky Mountain Martial Arts Family Centre for a self-defence demonstration, as well as an RCMP officer to talk about an app that helps to keep women safe.

"I've been accumulating and learning over the years, and finally feel like I've tackled all my problems," said Henry.

The first Feb. 14 women's memorial march was in Vancouver in 1992, and was organized to honour the memory of all women and gender-diverse people who died in the city's Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver's 31st annual Women's Memorial March will begin at Main and Hastings at 10:30 a.m. PT, where families will speak in remembrance of their loved ones, followed by a march at noon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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