Many gather for Sisters in Spirit Vigil
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Approximately 50 people came out for the annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Oct. 4. Escorted by local police cruisers, the group started the walking candle light vigil at the O.P.P Station where they made their way south to Front Street, west to Sixth Avenue, north to King Street, and then east along King Street where they eventually stopped at the Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre for the rest of the evening’s festivities.
The evening continued with a song and prayer from elder Romaine Wesley followed by homemade chili for dinner with a variety of baked goods including bannock and banana bread. Participants then had the opportunity to share how the issue of violence against Indigenous women has affected their lives.
The evening was organized by Sioux Lookout’s Domestic Violence Action and Awareness Committee, which includes First Step Women’s Shelter, Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Ah-shawah-bin Support Services, Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, Equay-wuk (Women’s Group) and St. Andrew’s United Church. The group was happy with the participation throughout the night, but they’re always open to having more participants.
“We’re happy with that number, but we’d always like to see more…It would be nice to see more men,” said Kimberly Murphy, who is a circle of care program coordinator for the Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada describes Sisters in Spirit, “Funded by Status of Women Canada (SWC), Sisters In Spirit was a research, education and policy initiative driven and led by Aboriginal women. The primary goal was to conduct research and raise awareness of the alarming high rates of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. The first phase of the SIS initiative, which began in 2005, conducted ongoing research that gathered statistical information on violence against Aboriginal women. The research team had developed a sophisticated database that included more than 200 variables. SIS research proved that there are more than 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in this country. We continue to update our database as well as track new cases every week.”
“It’s scary that this is happening, and it’s happening right here. It really changes your world view, and it really changes your idea of what’s safe. As women, we can’t just go walk outside when it’s dark out. These are things we have to seriously consider and live with,” said Shauna Pitawanakwat, who is a family information liaison unit worker.
Aside from the annual candle light Sisters in Spirit Vigil, the Domestic Violence Action and Awareness Committee offers more events throughout the year with the goal of empowering women in the Sioux Lookout and surrounding area community.
“We do all kinds of empowering women events. We do around five or six of them a year through our Domestic Violence Action and Awareness Committee,” Murphy concluded.