Sisters in Spirit Vigil returns to Williams Lake

Tamara Garreau (from left), Lori Winters, Mary Borkowski-Sutton, Noella William, and Cynthia Dick don face masks made by Dana Alphonse of the Williams Lake First Nation. They will be honouring MMIWG through a Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Oct. 9 in Williams Lake, and ask the public to join them. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
L-R: Tamara Garreau, Lori Winters, Mary Borkowski-Sutton, Noella William, and Cynthia Dick don face masks made by Dana Alphonse of the Williams Lake First Nation. They will be honouring MMIWG through a Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Oct. 9 in Williams Lake, and ask the public to join them. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

The Violence is Preventable Committee in Williams Lake is hoping to catch the attention of motorists with their stifled sorrow as the Thanksgiving long weekend approaches.

For one hour on Friday, Oct. 9 at 5:30 p.m. the committee will stand on Oliver Street, between 5th Avenue and Mackenzie Avenue, to bring attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in B.C. and beyond.

It has been three years since the first Sisters in Spirit Vigil was held in the lake city, and this year Tamara Garreau wants the public to take note as they line the streets holding a candle in the memory of those who were senselessly lost or remain missing.

“The stats have always said that the numbers are higher and it’s a sad fact,” Garreau said.

A general social survey by Sisters in Spirit and Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) found Aboriginal women 15 and older are three and a half times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. Statistics Canada reported rates of spousal assault (physical, sexual or verbal) against Aboriginal women are more than three times higher than non Aboriginal women, and that nearly one quarter of Aboriginal women experienced some form of spousal violence in the five years preceding the survey.

Read More: First Nation community ‘torn apart’ by unsolved homicide of Sabrina Rosette

Read More: Cariboo-made face masks honour missing and murdered Indigenous women

“I think it’s more important than ever because of COVID — everybody being isolated and not being able to be out and about, it’s one of those things where we need to draw that attention back to the important issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” Garreau said, noting there is a large Indigenous population in Williams Lake.

Before the ‘reverse parade’ starts, the committee will meet at the Purple House next to Denny’s for an opening prayer and drumming.

Red dresses will also be displayed at Herb Gardner park. Many Williams Lake businesses have already taken the opportunity to display posters promoting the upcoming event alongside red paper dresses by the Women’s Contact and Cariboo Friendship societies in their windows.

“We’re just really excited,” said Noellea William, a Aboriginal victim service worker with the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council.

Sisters in Spirit Vigils were held across Canada on Sunday, Sept 4.

More than 20-years ago Geraldine Gauthier’s sister Lynn was murdered in Fort St. John, B.C. and the pain of losing her remains overwhelming.

Lynn was beaten to death by her common law husband in 2000.

“It’s something you never get over,” Gauthier said choking back tears during a virtual vigil Sunday by NWAC.

“It’s really hard not to have her here,” she said, noting the abuse her sister suffered at the hands of her partner who was only charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“I keep wondering what life would be like with her.”

For Martha Martin of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island her pain is only just beginning.

Her daughter Chantel Moore was shot and killed by police on June 4, 2020 in Edmundston, New Brunswick.

“I have a little girl that cries for her and that’s her six-year old daughter,” she said sobbing.

“She says she wants to have wings so she can be with her mom.”

While the Sisters in Spirit vigil this year in Williams Lake will not coincide with the vigils held across Canada every Oct. 4 for the past 15 years, Garreau hopes they will be able to raise even more awareness on Oct. 9 when roadways will likely be busier than normal as motorists head home to be with their families for Thanksgiving.

“I wanted it to be a time where the public will really see us,” she said.

Read More: Online threats, racism causing fear for Indigenous women: MMIWG commissioner

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