Sisters in Spirit Day is a national movement by Indigenous women to raise awareness of the violence against Indigenous women and girls and to take a stand against violence that leads to Indigenous women and girls going missing or being murdered.
Last year, I was honoured at a Sisters in Spirit Day vigil with the gift of a beautiful red dress from Josie Nepinak, executive director of the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society. The red dress is a symbol of the more than 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
In accepting this gift made by artist Emily Taylor, I also accepted the responsibility to follow ceremonial protocol for the red dress and to take action on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
My ministry, Indigenous Relations, is following through on these commitments.
Alberta’s government has established a working group of elected officials and Indigenous women with experience in violence prevention to provide recommendations on the Calls for Justice. They meet regularly to examine these difficult issues, because they have also made a commitment: to stand up against the violence Indigenous people are more likely to experience. We are looking forward to receiving their recommendations in 2021.
On October 26, I participated in a moving ceremony conducted by Blackfoot Elder Jackie Bromley who smudged the red dress to honour its spirit and the spirit of the missing and murdered Indigenous women. The Elder pinned an eagle feather to the dress and made an offering of food to nourish the spirits.
In our prayers, we sent a message for healing to the families and loved ones who endure a deep grief for the women and girls whom they loved dearly.
The ceremony was a powerful display of love and compassion, respect and remembrance for those who have been needlessly taken from their families and loved ones too soon.
Far too often in the news, we hear about Indigenous women who are missing or killed after suffering some of the most violent attacks we could imagine.
Their voices silenced and their light extinguished.
Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada.
Enough is enough. As a society we cannot allow this national tragedy to continue.
I urge everyone in Alberta to join us as we work to build an Alberta where Indigenous women and girl cans lead lives filled with hope and promise. By taking a stand and by working together, we can help stop violence against all people in Alberta.