(Flickr/Lorie Shaull)

Bev Sappier had no hesitation about travelling an hour to Fredericton on Oct. 4 to participate in the Sisters in Spirit Vigil.

Sappier joined Gail Standingready, Val Polchies, Autumn Sappier-Paul, Ida Brooks Henry and Sylvia Paul at the event, held at the Wolastoqey Burial Grounds in Fredericton, to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited people.

“This event was very powerful as Indigenous women and non-Indigenous women joined together in prayer and song on our Wolastoqey burial grounds,” she said. “We honoured our missing and murdered and prayed for their families and communities.”

According to a report by the RCMP, 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were murdered between 1980 and 2012 — a homicide rate 4.5 times than that of all other women in Canada.

Statistics Canada reports around six in 10 Indigenous women experience physical assault compared to about one-third of other women in Canada.

The Sisters in Spirit Vigil movement was created in 2005 by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. The movement’s initiative was to research and document the statistics of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

“Growing this event is so important because it heightens awareness and education regarding the treatment of Indigenous women,” said Sappier.

“By growing Sisters in Spirit, the hope is to influence policy in government to address these issues and stop the mistreatment of our Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people.”

According to the 2022 National Progress Report on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous
Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People Action Plan, Indigenous women and girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than non-Indigenous women.

The true total, however, is unknown because these deaths or disappearances are often unreported or misreported.

“We will continue to gather support grieving families, create opportunities for healing and to honour Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people who have gone missing or who have been murdered,” said Sappier.

“My drum and my voice will be loud – and my hope is that justice happens for those who are no longer with us.”

This article was published in partnership with the Local Reporting, Global Media class at St. Thomas University and The Aquinian, St. Thomas University’s official student publication.