“Let’s break the silence because we can”

MMIWG awareness walk began at Kwah Hall and participants walked through the district while singing and drumming. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
A red dress hangs on a tree near Spirit Square on Friday, August 8. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
A young boy holds a sign for missing Bonnie Joseph. Joseph was last seen on Sept. 8, 2007 in Vanderhoof, B.C. and was reported missing in December.
Walk attendees smear their hands with red paint. A red handprint across the mouth is a symbolic representation of violence affecting indigenous women in Canada. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
A sign at the walk read — “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered/missing than other women in Canada.” (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
(Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
(Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
(Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
MMIWG poster. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)
Ruby Prince talks about her experiences as an Indigenous woman. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)

A Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Walk was held in Fort St. James this past weekend.

“I am the fourth generation of a silence keeper,” Ruby Prince said. Prince said these words at Spirit Square after the walk had gone through town on Aug. 7, starting at Kwah Hall.

“I was taught at a very young age to keep the silence. Through sexual, mental, physical and emotional abuse. Today, I stand and tell my story proudly,” she said to a crowd of listeners participating in the Walk.

The number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada is “disproportionately” high.

Even though indigenous women only make up four percent of the total female population in Canada, they represent 10 percent of the total women missing in the country, according to a Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women report made by the RCMP in 2015,

At the walk in Fort St. James, women carried red dresses which are used to honor, remember and bring awareness to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Prince said she personally has family that are missing and murdered.

“When I am up town and I see people on the street, I think about Margaret and every time I think of her, tears come to my eyes because she was such a beautiful woman who didn’t deserve to die,” she said.

Margaret (Duncan) was reported missing on Jan 3. Police said Duncan was last seen on Dec. 31, 2019 in downtown Fort St. James.

On Jan 8, residents from Fort St. James and Nak’azdli Whut’en began a community search for missing 56-year-old Margaret Duncan from Cottonwood Park.

Later that afternoon, Duncan was found dead in front of the Fort Forum Arena.

READ MORE: Federal delay of MMIWG action plan sparks dismay ahead of inquiry anniversary

“We all know people like this. It is up to us to stand up and say what it is we are doing today. It is up to us to move forward in bringing in a generation of silence keeper breakers,” Prince said.

“We want to talk. We want to talk about the sexual abuse. We want to talk about the physical abuse, the emotional, mental abuse. We want to bring them up in the forefront, so we don’t have to face anymore missing and murdered women. We know its no longer just women. We have men who are going missing now too. We have to acknowledge that piece as well.”

Miranda Free, another participant at the walk said the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women affects all Canadians.

“A little food for thought — there is a direct co-relation between violence against women and the stability of the government. So this is an issue. A Canadian issue, not just a First Nations issue,” Free said.

READ MORE: Online threats, racism causing fear for Indigenous women: MMIWG commissioner

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express


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