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Missing and murdered Indigenous women top of mind in Nanaimo

Events held May 5 as part of national day of awareness
Community members march into Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton Park on Sunday, May 5, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

A march through downtown Nanaimo was held this afternoon as a solemn reminder of the women, girls and two-spirited Indigenous people who have been stolen from loved ones across the country for decades.

For the third year, the Nanaimo Family Life Association organized a peaceful walk Sunday, May 5, as an act of solidarity for the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, also known as Red Dress Day.

The walk started at Victoria Road at approximately 11:30 a.m. and continued down Wallace, Bastion and Front Streets, ending at Maffeo Sutton Park for a community gathering. This year, approximately 150 community members participated in the walk and stood should to shoulder at the Lions Pavilion.

Both Mayor Leonard Krog and MLA Sheila Malcolmson were in attendance and spoke during the event.

Snuneymuxw elder Lolly Good asked the crowd to think of others as she opened the ceremony with a prayer and song.

Programs manager with Nanaimo Family Life Association, Cora Leschert, read a letter from the organization’s executive director, Deborah Hollins, during the event.

“To Canada’s shame, the victimization of Indigenous peoples continues to be an economic, cultural, institutional and historical reality,” she said. “We have not done a good job in addressing the systemic issues of colonization, racism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny that continue to govern the lives of Indigenous people in this land. We continue to neglect the suffering of those who fall prey to sex traffickers and to exploitation and we are too slow in addressing real issues of racism in our justice system.”

According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, roughly 63 per cent of Indigenous women have experienced physical or sexual assault in Canada. The impacts of such high rates of violence can be felt in areas including the effects on health and wellness and inequitable access and treatment in health care.

If anyone is experiencing signs of distress or abuse, they are encouraged to reach out to available services at the Indigenous-centred Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310 or the National Family and Survivors Circle at 1-844-413-6649.

READ MORE: First Nations leaders in B.C. call for action on Red Dress Day

Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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