Vigil for missing, murdered native women
Published Wednesday, March 18, 2009 11:36AM EDT
Montreal's native women's association is urging authorities to take a close look at violence against aboriginal women, citing five cases of missing and murdered indigenous Montreal women since September.
On Tuesday there was a vigil at Atwater and Ste-Catherine St. by loved ones who have lost sisters, mothers, and children.
They say 510 women have been murdered or have gone missing across Canada since 1980.
Sue Martin, whose 24-year-old daughter was murdered, said the loss reverberates through the generations.
"My grandchildren will never ever know what it's like to sit on their mother's lap (and) have their mother kiss them," she said.
Organizers of the vigil cited government statistics that show indigenous women are five times more likely to die a violent death than other women.
Beverly Jacobs of the Native Women's Association said many women don't feel safe and don't believe people outside their communities are listening.
"We're trying to scream out to society that it is a huge issue," she said.
"This isn't just an issue within our communities, this is women living in urban areas who are being targeted as a result of being an aboriginal woman."
The Tiffany Morrison case
Participants highlighted the case of 24-year-old Tiffany Morrison, who disappeared after a taxi ride home to the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal in June of 2006. Her family has never been able to find out what became of her.
"It's like she wasn't more than a shadow," said her sister, Melanie Morrison.
"Nobody remembers much, nobody could trace anything that happened, nothing can be done because there's no evidence."
Some at the vigil accused the Canadian justice system of practicing a double standard against aboriginal women. Activist Ellen Gabriel called for a national action plan and urged First Nations communities to raise awareness among the wider population. She also wants people to put pressure on police and the court system to address the problem.
UN weighs in
The United Nations has become involved in the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women, asking Canada last month to provide a report on the root causes of the violence.