‘Together we must demand action’: Mi’kmaq marchers

Speakers at annual Sisters in Spirit vigil urge Canadians to vote

Women singing and drumming during the Sisters in Spirit march in Halifax Sunday
Women singing and drumming during the Sisters in Spirit march in Halifax Sunday   Sarah Rae

A Mi’kmaq leader stressed the importance of voting in the upcoming federal election at the annual Sisters in Spirit vigil Sunday.

“Our Canadian government has failed Aboriginal people too many times. We need to step up and take control of our lives and do this for our sisters. Together, we must demand action,” said Denise Mitchell, who is the victim support navigator for the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre.

As she spoke about the statistics of more than 1,000 missing and murdered aboriginal women, she reminded the audience, “we must never forget that each number represents a story of an aboriginal woman or girl who is missed by her community.”

The vigil was just one of more than 100 of its kind that took place this weekend across Canada. The group gathered at the Grand Parade, then marched to the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre on Gottingen Street.

Patricia Doyle-Bedwell, a Mi’kmaq Dalhousie law professor, said aboriginal women are strong, even though society keeps putting them down.

“I thank God the creator for being here, because they tried so damn hard to get rid of us and we have a federal government who doesn’t care about us,” she said.

“Vote in this election. Don’t let [Stephen] Harper marginalize us and ignore us anymore,” she told the crowd.

There was a sign at the front of the hall that said “Stop Harper” and some people wore pins that said “Stephen Harper hates me.”

David Ladouceur, a Mikmaq speaker at the vigil, acknowledged the fact that most murdered aboriginal women are killed by men they know.

“It’s hard to come up here as a man knowing we are the greatest perpetrators of violence against aboriginal women. We as men gotta stand up and take responsibility for this and act,” he said.

He also took a political stand in his speech, saying the federal government, through its inaction, is condoning the violence.

“There’s only one way to stop it and that’s in the voting booth,” he said.

The crowd of about 100 people broke into spontaneous applause many times throughout all of the speeches, and community members called out and stood up to support one another.