More than 100 people gathered outside the Kelowna courthouse Tuesday evening for the 6th annual Murdered and Missing Indigenous woman’s memorial vigil.
Holding signs, drums and candles – community members joined in unity to remember those lost as well as fight for change moving forward.
“I think it is important everyone gathers to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women and to support their families, who are grieving right now. Also, to bring awareness to this issue. So we can bring our women home and they can be safe and protected,” said Harron Hall, vigil co-organizer and cousin to Roxanne Louie.
Louie was murdered in January 2015 and her family attended the vigil in her memory for the third year in a row.
“Roxanne Louie is my first cousin and from an Indigenous perspective she was my sister. I am here in honour of her and to keep her alive in our memories and in our heart.”
More than a dozen aboriginal leaders, family members, community members and politicians shared their thoughts and prayers to the large crowd holding signs and candles in support.
“The number of murdered or missing aboriginal women and girls in our country is horrifying,” said Mayor Colin Basran.
“Equally startling, aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience spousal violence and eight times more likely to suffer spousal homicide than non-aboriginal women.”
Basran said it is Canadians’ duty to set it right.
“Particularly in light of what is happening in the world, and south of the border, I think it is important to remember that we have an opportunity to, moving forward, be a beacon of light – our country. In terms of saying no to hatred, no to violence and no to racism.”
It is reported that a total of 1,181 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or are missing between 1980 and 2012. Of those, 1,017 are homicide victims.
A National Inquiry into those deaths was launched Sept. 1, 2016. They are expected to submit an interim report in the fall of 2017 and a final report by the end of 2018.
While Hall said she appreciates the work and inquiry that has been done so far, she said the system is still failing Indigenous women.
“The inquiry, the way it is framed now, has no teeth. Families and survivors of violence are being asked to return back to the RCMP, the same system that is failing us right now,” said Hall.
“More steps need to be taken. There needs to be a separate inquiry on the police and why they are not handling these cases with all due attention.”
There are 164 Indigenous women and girls that are still missing and 225 cases are still unsolved.
Indigenous women and girls make up 4.3 percent of the total female population but make up 11.3 percent of the murdered and missing cases.
“I am glad to see this was a larger turnout. I am thankful to the co-organizers that keep this going annually. I hope it keeps getting bigger,” added Hall.
“We want the world to know indigenous women are well-loved and well-cared for and we are resilient.”