Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 15, 2007
Aboriginal women witness to their 'stolen sisters'
Few pay attention to their pleas to end 'epidemic of violence'
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"These missing women were loved."
- Sandra Gagnon
Amnesty International's Stolen Sisters Report three years ago launched the vigils which have grown in size and number since the first year.
Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, told the news conference that far more than the documented 500 Aboriginal women have been murdered or have disappeared.
But part of the problem is the inadequate gathering of statistics for the "documented human rights crisis."
Widespread violence and discrimination is "a daily reality for indigenous women in every corner of the country," Neve said.
KAIROS Ecumenical Justice Initiatives also helped sponsor the vigils. The churches through KAIROS have been involved since the Stolen Sisters report came out and the Native Women's Association approached the churches for help.
"We agreed once we learned more that this was another example of systemic discrimination and racism and great injustices were being perpetrated against girls and women," said KAIROS' Aboriginal rights program coordinator Ed Bianchi.
"We felt it was our responsibility to give our support."
"The life of every Aboriginal women is sacred," said KAIROS executive director Mary Corkery in a statement. "The extent of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada is a human rights disaster that demands immediate action."
Both Gagnon and Jacobs spoke of the double standard in news coverage - when a person from a middle-class neighbourhood goes missing, the news is all over the front pages. If missing or murdered Aboriginal woman are covered at all, they are treated as stereotypes instead of as human beings.
Jacobs said her organization is hearing from families on and off reserves and in urban settings. Aboriginal women and girls are targeted for violence, she said.
"It's not safe for us to be able to walk down the streets, to walk in our communities and not worry about being violated," Jacobs told the vigil. "We simply would not tolerate this for any other segment of society."
The groups involved want to see improvements in how the police and the justice system protect this vulnerable population; well-funded programs to provide safety for women and girls; and action to address the deeply-rooted marginalization and racism they face.
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