The event, organized by Missing Justice and the Centre for Gender Advocacy, was the twelfth annual event of its kind in Montreal and one of 200 vigils held across the country to raise awareness of the national crisis.
Indigenous community activists, family members, and concerned citizens congregated as prayers were sung and candles lit in honour of the missing and murdered women from Quebec and across the country.
Among the speakers were Elizabeth Norton Beauvais, a Mohawk Elder from Kahnawà:ke who delivered the opening and closing prayers, Also present was Viviane Michel, the President of the Quebec Native Women Association, as well as Qajaq Robinson and Michelle Audette, two commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
According to a 2010 report conducted by the Native Women’s Association, 582 Indigenous women in Canada have gone missing or been murdered throughout the past two decades. Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and artist from Kanehsatà:ke Nation, spoke at the vigil about the impacts and causes of the current crisis.
“The results that we are seeing today here in 2017 is the result of genocide,” Gabriel proclaimed. “It’s a human rights issue. Those women who lost their lives because of racism, because of discrimination, because of genocide, those lives were just as precious as the ones here today. We need to remember them properly.”
Video Courtesy of TVM: Student Television at McGill
In December 2015, the Government of Canada launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as part of their promise to restore Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. The inquiry, which has been plagued with delays and communications issues, has 15 months left of its 28-month mandate.
While the inquiry is expected to table an interim report by November of this year, some remain skeptical of the government’s overall commitment to Indigenous issues. “The reality that the women face, all of us as Indigenous women and all of us as women face is much more dangerous than the statistics or any commissioner inquiry can evoke,” Gabriel declared Wednesday night.“This is about government institutions denying equality, denying a quality of service [for the people] that they profess to promote rights for.”
Speaking about Prime Minister Trudeau, Gabriel maintained, “[He] recently gave a speech at the United Nations talking about what Canada has done to Indigenous peoples but there’s no solutions on his part. There are no solutions from his government that say that they are willing to change, that they are willing to respect Indigenous peoples rights.”