More cell towers, better transportation, more awareness and action to stop violence in all forms is needed, said Cariboo Friendship Society executive director Rosanna McGregor.
McGregor was speaking during a ceremony held on National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, held May 5 in Williams Lake, that drew a crow of about 140 people.
Standing in a large circle, with a sacred fire burning at one end, First Nations and non-First Nations, many dressed in red, drummed and sang.
Williams Lake RCMP officers also attended.
“There is so much more that needs to happen on a national level and we task our staff to work with political bodies to make more change take effect,” McGregor said as she shared some statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety.
Indigenous people are over represented as victims of violence in Canada and even more so women, McGregor said, adding more than six in 10 Indigenous women experienced either physical or sexual assault in their life time since the age of 15.
Almost two-thirds of First Nations and Métis women experience violent victimization in their lifetime, while the proportion among Inuit women, 45 per cent, was the same as the proportion among non-Indigenous women, 45 per cent.
Factors that contribute to violence are drugs and alcohol, remoteness and isolation, which has been augmented through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Stress, anxiety, grief and loss are at an all time high,” McGregor said, noting transportation is restricted due to reduced service or no service at all from taxis and buses. “Add this to a lack of cell phone coverage along transportation corridors.”
CFS staff distributed Red Dress pins and participants were encouraged to write a note or use one of the provided tobacco ties to send in the smoke of the sacred fire.
McGregor said it is important to get rid of negative thoughts and the sacred fire is one way to do that.
There were also red painted rocks available for people to write a message to a murdered or missing person. The rocks were placed at the memory garden on 624 Oliver Street.
“Please take the steps to heal in whatever way and form that is for you,” she said.