For the 14th year, the Lethbridge Sisters in Spirit Committee held an evening march and vigil, honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
Dozens of these walks take place every year on Oct. 4, with the goal of spreading awareness and remembering more than 1,200 MMIWG, an epidemic across the country that some refer to as genocide.
“My niece and nephew were both brutally murdered here — about five years ago here in Lethbridge on the west side,” said Piikani Nation member Karen English.
“It’s really important for me and my family to be part of this, to give acknowledgement to our loss, and that they’re never forgotten.”
Those in attendance in Lethbridge say the turnout was large and quite diverse, as they marched through downtown from city hall to Galt Gardens for a candlelight vigil.
“I think the only way we can ever move forward as a community is if we all unite and we are aware together,” English said of the importance of having different cultures attend.
Speakers at the vigil emphasized the need to educate others about the injustices Indigenous people face, while sharing personal stories and prayers.
Mayor Chris Spearman, Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh with the Lethbridge Police Service, and Ms. Blackfoot Canada were present at the vigil. The latter sang an original song dedicated to MMIWG.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has submitted 231 recommendations for government in its final report ‘Reclaiming Power and Place.’
Locally, the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee says they want to work with the City of Lethbridge to make municipal improvements. At the last community issues meeting on Septemeber 28th, the committee presented their own suggestions.
Some of those suggestions include embracing local knowledge, history, and expertise, as well as ensuring a long-term commitment of resources and to learning by elected leadership and staff, and creating enhanced opportunities for allyship.
Marissa Smoke, one of the organizers, believes the relationship with law enforcement is an area that could be improved on in Lethbridge.
“There’s not really a relationship there, and so we need to stop working in silos and start working together,” Smoke explained.
“We are twelve times more likely to go missing or murdered,” she said, referencing statistics from the National Inquiry. “So what can everybody do? Stop the violence.”