Canada's Original Think Tank

Sisters in Spirit Vigil Day

Sisters in Spirit Vigil Day

Sisters in Spirit Vigil Day

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Honourable senators, for the second year on this day, we have started off our chamber sitting with a solemn moment of silence. Today is October 4, the day we remember and honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I want to thank Your Honour and all the senators today for allowing each of us to have a moment of silence to honour the victims, the survivors and the families of these lost Indigenous women and girls.

The history of the October 4 Sisters in Spirit Vigils should be well known to all of us. Today marks the thirteenth annual October 4 Sisters in Spirit Vigil day held in Canada. The October 4 Sisters in Spirit Vigils are powerful moments of social change. The number of SIS Vigils has grown from 11 in 2006 to an impressive 212 vigils last year.

Today, the Native Women’s Association of Canada held the thirteenth annual vigil in Ottawa from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the University of Ottawa in an event co-hosted by the Indigenous Resource Centre, the Indigenous Students Association and the University of Ottawa.

Relying on historical data, we are experiencing roughly 30 to 40 Indigenous women and girls a year being murdered or made missing. It is a stark reminder to us all that even though the federal government finally took action to establish a national inquiry, and that inquiry is doing the necessary work of hearing from the victims and families, there is still much more that we need to do.

As the numbers continue to grow, the urgency has never been clearer. Just this week, we heard the story of Mary Madeline Yellowback, a 33-year-old Indigenous woman from Gods River, Manitoba. Mary was found dead in a recycling depot in an industrial area in Winnipeg’s northeast corner last Friday evening. The words of Mary’s father, Rex Ross, are truly heartbreaking:

I never realized it would be me who would lose a daughter through this tragic event of being destroyed, her life being cut short.

We were so fortunate that she was dumped in recycling . . . .

“Dumped in [a] recycling [bin].” Those words clearly and unfortunately encapsulate how Indigenous women and girls are viewed in Canadian society: as something that can be thrown out, recycled and dumped without a care.

Colleagues, I again appreciate your participation in the moment of silence at the start of our sitting today. However, as Mary’s story came forward this week, I wanted to leave you with the words of Commissioner Michèle Audette, who attended the media conference in support of Mary’s family. She said:

Every week, we have to have that moment of silence because we heard through the news that somebody went missing, somebody found dead, somebody disappeared.

Thank you. Kinanaskomitin.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.