Aboriginal women rally for missing, slain

2/14/11

Aboriginal women marched to Parliament Hill through cold wind and rain to honour missing or murdered native women.

The Sisters in Spirit rally, supported by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, was held to call attention to the dangers facing aboriginal women.

Maria Jacko attended the rally for her niece, 16-year-old Maisy Odjick, who has been missing from Kitigan Zibi, Que. — near Maniwaki, about 135 km north of Ottawa — since September 2008.

“Of course we don’t want her memory to go,” Jacko said. “I am still hopeful that she’s still out there. But as years go by, we still want those answers.”

Odjick disappeared along with her friend Shannon Alexander, 17, who is also still missing. Both families have been frustrated with the lack of leads in the case.

Aboriginal women’s activists said there are 583 cases of missing or murdered native women in Canada and that number is rising.

“With vigils and marches and rallies like this, it puts pressure on the police to take it more seriously and push those cases ahead and not just let them sit and collect dust,” said Melanie Morrison, whose sister Tiffany went missing in 2006.

Tiffany Morrison’s body was found in Montreal in 2010.

Supporters at the event are also calling on the federal government to restore funding to the Sisters in Spirit campaign, which the government announced it was cutting last fall.

“We will continue to make sure that people are aware and that we have resources to work with our communities,” said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, president of the native women’s association.

For Jacko, the rally was another chance to keep Odjick’s name in the public’s attention.

“Each person has a story. It’s really sad, it’s unfortunate, but we need to get our stories out there,” Jacko said. “We need to be heard.”

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