It was a bittersweet moment during the Kelowna’s seventh annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls and Two-Spirit Memorial Vigil.
Westbank First Nation chief Roxanne Lindley addressed a crowd of approximately 100 people, who gathered outside of the courthouse Wednesday night.
“When we look at our murdered and missing Indigenous women, we know that it’s an injustice and to know that this is going on in this day and age, with all this technology it’s quite heartbreaking actually,” she said.
“When Canada speaks of reconciliation, and our prime minister (uses) that word, these are the types of issues that we want dealt with. We don’t want to gather here year after year and pass it along to our grandchildren and our children to gather here year after year to express our sorrow.”
Tina Miller has been organizing the vigil for the past four years, and said the situation hasn’t improved for women.
“Think of Clara Forman recently, and her daughters right? Right here in our own backyard.”
Bringing awareness to the issue is a step forward, but you have to do that by looking back, she said.
But the event isn’t something Miller wants to pass on to her children.
“I’ve got three daughters and a son, and they’ve watched me do this over the years. I don’t want to pass this legacy onto them, I shouldn’t have to,” she said.
Students from Mt. Boucherie Secondary and the Westbank First Nation beat drums to honour the missing women, singing the Okanagan Song.
“In my opinion it’s growing and growing,” said Miller of the awareness.
A collective formed to organize the event, which is new this year, she said.
Pauline Terbasket, executive director of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, has attended the vigils in Kelowna since the beginning.
“Injustice is injustice, think of the mothers, the families that are suffering great loss. Some of these women and girls have never been found, their cases are not closed. There’s no closure for our families, our peoples, in respect to this issue. Yes it’s sad to say that we have to meet this way, but it’s important, it’s our responsibility to meet this way. We all are responsible to foster social change.”
Shelly Nguy doesn’t have an Indigenous background, but said she wanted to attend the event to show her support. Ashlee Tom stood with her, holding a poster with faces of missing women on the Highway of Tears in northern B.C.
“I think it’s important, and my family actually did a unity ride to raise awareness about the Highway of Tears a few years ago so it’s something that’s been important to my family as well,” said Tom.
“I think there’s more awareness now than there’s used to be.”