News | Vigil held for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Consent Week organizers highlight continuing urgency of issue

McGill’s third annual Consent Week began on Monday, September 29, with a vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women. The event, organized collaboratively by Consent McGill, First Peoples’ House, and Indigenous students, was held on lower field behind the Hochelaga Rock with roughly sixty people in attendance.

“I want to sincerely thank everyone here today for coming out and showing your support as we come together in honour of missing and murdered [Indigenous] women,” said Paige Isaac, the current coordinator of First People’s House. “I would like to acknowledge the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples on whose traditional territory we live, work, and learn. We recognize and respect these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.”

Isaac highlighted the urgency of the issue at hand, reminding attendees of the severity of the crimes against Indigenous peoples.

“The [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] reported 1,181 cases of Indigenous women who have been murdered or who have gone missing since 1980. The numbers are likely higher than this,” she said. “Our aim is to bring awareness, and to shed light on this very important and multifaceted issue. This is a national crisis that has been repeatedly denounced by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. It has been repeatedly ignored and dismissed by the Canadian government for years.”

“[But] while awareness is necessary,” she continued, “we are also here to urge people to take action. While you’re here with us, I want you to think about what you would do if this happened to your sister, your daughter, your mother, your loved one.”

“This is a national crisis that has been repeatedly denounced by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. It has been repeatedly ignored and dismissed by the Canadian government for years.”

Around the space of the vigil, organizers showcased the art of of Monique Bedard (under the pen name AURA), a Haudenosaunee artist with Metis and French-Canadian heritage, much of which was displayed near the Hochelaga Rock. Her work was accompanied by a reading of one of her poems by Ashley Bach, a former coordinator of McGill’s Indigenous Student Alliance, and environmental science graduate.

“No more stolen sisters, no more stolen land, no more hate. / We hold each other’s hands as we rise / Rise for our children so they know their own strength / as we breath in and out like the tides of the waters / connecting to our grandmother,” she read.

A very large dreamcatcher was also on display at the vigil. Vigil organizers invited attendees to write down their hopes and aspirations for those affected by the crisis. These notes were then affixed to the dreamcatcher. Tiffany Harrington-Ashoona, one of the primary organizers of the vigil, wrote the first note, which said, “No more stolen sisters!”

Candles were passed around and lit for a moment of silence. Isaac and Harrington-Ashoona ended the vigil with a reminder of its importance.

“[But] while awareness is necessary,” she continued, “we are also here to urge people to take action. While you’re here with us, I want you to think about what you would do if this happened to your sister, your daughter, your mother, your loved one.”

“We really have to continue these vigils and these marches because women are still going missing, despite an inquiry coming up,” said Harrington-Ashoona. “Despite all of our efforts, women are still missing.”

She also reminded those in attendance that this crisis is deeply personal for many in the McGill community.

“My mother-in-law’s cousin just went missing,” she said. “She was found in [a] river last week […] This isn’t just going to end overnight.”

In an interview with The Daily, Bach also commented on how this crisis has affected the McGill community.

“A lot of people heard about the [Provost’s] Task Force [on Indigenous Studies and Education], but I don’t know if they fully know what’s been happening [regarding] missing and murdered aboriginal women,” she said, “and I don’t know if they fully understand the extent to which that affects students at McGill. Some [students’] aunts have gone missing, and other family members as well.”

“This is something people have to learn about,” she continued, “and I’m hoping that this [vigil] will draw in more people. It also gives us a community space for us to be together, to gather in, and remember these missing and murdered women.”


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