Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for October 7, 2013

Applause greets MP’s call for inquiry

Whitehorse residents joined thousands of Canadians taking part in the Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Friday to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

By Christopher Reynolds on October 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm


Photo by Anna Crawford

POWERFUL SYMBOLISM – Carvings of Grandmother Moon hang on the hallway wall in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, evoking the special connection between aboriginal women and their ancestors in the spirit world (top). REMEMBERING THEM – Marian Horne (bottom left), the president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, and Ta’an Kwäch’än Chief Kristina Kane hold a book commemorating missing and murdered Yukon aboriginal women during Friday’s Sisters in Spirit vigil.

Whitehorse residents joined thousands of Canadians taking part in the Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Friday to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef, meanwhile, is calling for a national inquiry into the issue –  something Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ruled out.

The Whitehorse ceremony was one among more than 200 across the country, including ones in Carcross and Teslin, organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

To the beat of a moose hide drum, Joy O’Brien and Starr Dryrock walked with more than 100 others from the Yukon legislative building to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre along the Yukon River.

“I’m marching for my cousin, who was murdered, missing, then found 16 years later in Fort St. John (B.C.),” O’Brien said.

Dryrock, 22, wore a button blanket and pushed a stroller carrying her moccasined 10-month-old daughter, Nevaeh.

“I’m here for my mom, my cousin and my friend,” she said.

All went missing within the past seven years, she said. None have been found.

“They won’t be forgotten,” O’Brien said.

Despite the sombre thread running through the event, the mood among marchers remained upbeat as they carried signs reading, “Violence is not our tradition” and “Justice for Angel” — a reference to the unsolved 2007 murder of 19-year-old Whitehorse resident Angel Carlick.

A gathering at the Kwanlin Dün fire pit saw a prayer and the release of dozens of balloons to commemorate the more than 600 aboriginal women missing or murdered across Canada within the past several decades.

Marian Horne, president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, spoke inside the cultural centre Friday afternoon.

“Today is our day for us to come together ... to heal,” said the former Justice minister.

“It touches my heart to see so many people out.”

Horne held up a nameless doll before the attendees. “These faceless dolls are visual representations of the strong, vital, youthful aboriginal women who thought they had a long life ahead of them. Instead, their lives were cut short by violence.”

Leef joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada in calling for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women.

“This is not an aboriginal issue,” he said.

“This is not a territorial issue. This is a national issue.”

Applause greeted his announcement.

“We heard the stats loud and clear. And they are alarming,” he said.

In 2009, aboriginal women were almost three times more likely than non-aboriginal women to report having been a victim of a violent crime, according to Statistics Canada. The bulk of these incidents occurred among women under 35.

Aboriginal women are also more likely to experience forms of extreme violence or mistreatment, including human trafficking.

A report from a parliamentary committee examining the issue is due in February 2014.

Premier Darrell Pasloski noted he tabled a motion that passed unanimously in the territorial legislature earlier this year calling on Ottawa to instigate a national public inquiry.

Lois Moorcroft, the NDP MLA for Copperbelt South and a former Justice minister, acknowledged the Kwanlin Dün First Nation for hosting the event on their traditional territory.

Lorraine Netro, a former NDP MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin and vice-president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, spoke as the Yukon representative and co-chair of the Assembly of First Nation’s Women’s Council.

“We have the right to be safe. We have the right to live with dignity,” she said.

“They were mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and nieces ....”

Mayor Dan Curtis spoke to the role of men in raising awareness and preventing abuse.

“If we have all these strong leaders,” he said, looking around the room, “why are these things happening to our women?

“It’s not the women who are committing these crimes; it’s men.”

The annual Yukon Sisters in Spirit Vigil (YSIS) began in the Yukon in 2010, with YSIS, a sister agency to the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Hanging in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre are 36 wooden moons, carved and painted by Squamish, B.C., artist Richard Baker, Sr., in the image of Grandmother Moon.

The icons symbolize aboriginal women’s connection to their forebears who have into the spirit world.

Funding for Sisters in Spirit was cut by the federal government in 2010.

CommentsAdd a comment

June Jackson

Oct 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm

As usual, I speak only for myself, and I don’t think we need yet another inquiry.

We already know that street people, prostitutes, homeless, junkies are at the highest risk of harm. Another inquiry would be costly, and I think money would be better spent getting women at risk off the streets, out of situations where they are vulnerable, providing education, housing, counselling. More protection on the streets, stronger laws, harsher sentences for violent acts. 

There is an entire, expensive, campaign running at the moment, “Am I the Solution” aimed at preventing violence against women.  My own feeling is, respect for women starts at home, maybe even at birth. Educational programs need to start before a man’s fist is raised for the first time, not after it has become the norm for him.

What can an inquiry tell us that we don’t already know?

The Campaign

Oct 9, 2013 at 6:25 pm

... I agree with June. YG’s campaign “Am I solution” is a waste of money ... they need to invest in services and interventions that focus on the at risk groups and the people that surround them ... not general population advertising that preaches to the converted. Looks good, makes everyone in government feel good and they get to say “look we’re doing something”

Max Mack

Oct 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm

It intrigues me when all of the reputable evidence indicates quite clearly that it is MEN that are disproportionatly affected by violence and homelessness.
Men are, on average, more than 5x likely to kill themselves relative to women.
Men are, on average, 3x more likely to be homicide victims than women.
The differences are even greater for aboriginal men relative to aboriginal women.
But no political posturing for an inquiry into the many thousands of murdered and missing aboriginal men and boys?

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