By Merna Emara
About 80 people showed up to walk in honour of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
The walk, which took place between the Sorting Gap Marina and the Bayview Motel, is part of the Red Ribbon Campaign created by Grand Council Treaty #3. This campaign was launched on Jan. 25 and organizers are hoping to make the walk be an annual event that coincides with International Women’s Day.
Cassandra Yerxa, MMIWG Worker at Grand Council Treaty #3, said the campaign and the walk itself was started to initiate the conversation regarding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“With the launch of the campaign and wearing the red ribbon signifies your commitment to honour, respect, protect and love the Indigenous women and girls in your life and to come together in ending violence against Indigenous women and girls,” Yerxa said.
“We’re hoping that the campaign itself will become an annual event in the month of February. Those raising this awareness collectively agree that missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls needs to be recognized as the national human rights crisis that it is.”
Grand Council Treaty #3 were also distributing sweaters to attendees. The sweaters had three phrases printed on them: “231 Calls To Action,” “No More Stolen Sisters,” and “Remembering Our Tribe.”
Yerxa said 231 Calls To Action is regarding the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls concludes that there are 231 steps that need to be taken by governments and Canadians in order to end the genocide against Indigenous women and girls.
This conclusion was reached on June 30, 2019 after the Government of Canada announced terms of reference and appointed commissioners. The pre-inquiry process took place from December 2015 until May 2016.
“This awareness and this movement and all the work that we’ve been doing here at Grand Council Treaty #3 with the Women’s Council is all to start the conversation on what steps can be taken to address the underlying societal issues that lead to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and press for action on systemic racism and all its forms,” Yerxa said.
The support was not just from Treaty #3, Yerxa said, but from all over the world. Yerxa added that in expanding their campaign outreach, they sent red ribbons and campaign cards to the United States.
Yerxa said in conjunction with the campaign, she has been invited to speak at the Catholic District School Board and give presentations across Treaty #3 on the Red Ribbon Campaign and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Red Ribbon campaign was launched by Grand Council Treaty #3 and the Women’s Council, Yerxa said. “We just did a soft launch on social media and then Betty’s of Fort Frances did a window display.”
Yerxa added that the campaign gained more traction when Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Member of Parliament gave them a shoutout.
“What we’re trying to do is start the conversation because nobody talks about it,” Yerxa said. “But it needs to be talked about because it needs to be addressed. Because how do we end the violence when violence lives in silence. And what we’re trying to do is break the silence.”
Elder Florence Yerxa said opening remarks and prayers before drummers led the way.