THUNDER BAY – Currently, there are approximately 600 known cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Today (Saturday, September 22nd), as a way to raise awareness and to pay respect to the countless families affected by these tragedies, the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) hosted the First Annual Honouring Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women Pow Wow.
It was a chilly fall day, there was small amounts of rain. The wind was blowing, and even blew down some of the tents set up over the booths. The weather could not slow the dedication and efforts of the people to attend and remember those lost, missing and murdered women.
Bernadette Smith has a personal connection to the cause of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women. She lost her sister, Claudette Osborne, when she went missing over 4 years ago. She has since become a passionate public speaker and an advocate for Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women across Canada.
“I am proud to be a part of ONWA’s First Annual Honouring Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women Pow Wow,” said Smith. “We all need to honour our missing and murdered Aboriginal women and ensure that they are never forgotten. It’s great to see organizations like ONWA stepping up and taking the lead in the fight for justice and equality for our women and families.”
Of the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, 70 are from Ontario alone. Statistics show that Aboriginal women are 8 times more likely to be murdered than non-Aboriginal women and in some Northern Aboriginal communities in Ontario, between 75 – 90% of Aboriginal women are victims of violence.
“The issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women has reached epidemic proportions. We want to honour all the women – our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts – who have gone missing or been murdered, or have been victims of violence and abuse,” explained Betty Kennedy, ONWA Executive Director. “Violence Against Aboriginal Women remains a top priority for ONWA, and we will continue to work tirelessly to eradicate violence across the province, ensuring that our Aboriginal women and girls are safe within their own communities”.
The Pow Wow brought together the community, including the Thunder Bay Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Nishnawbe Aski Police.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and Mayor Keith Hobbs were also on hand to show their support.
This year’s Pow Wow marks the first in what ONWA hopes will become a long tradition of Honouring Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. For more information on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women, visit www.onwa-tbay.ca or call 807-623-3442.