Okanagan Indian Band to hold vigil today for missing, murdered aboriginal women

Event near Vernon and Kelowna to coincide with other vigils across Canada

The Native Women's Association of Canada has catalogued close to 600 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls

The Okanagan Indian Band is holding an event on Tuesday to honour the memory of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

A ‘Sisters in Spirit National Day of Vigils’ event will take place at the OKIB cenotaph on Westside Road near Vernon, as members of the band will gather to to honour the lives of so many First Nation’s women who have gone missing.

OKIB councillors will be joined by Hereditary Chief Stefany Mathias of the Squamish Nation.

The event will take place along with hundreds of others across the country, organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)

The NWAC has gathered and catalogued information about 582 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls with the oldest dating back to 1944 but most of them being much more recent.

It also says there are likely many more cases to catalogue.

Of the cases the NWAC has documented 67 per cent are murder cases (death as the result of homicide or negligence); 20 per cent are cases of missing women or girls; 4 per cent are cases of suspicious death, regarded as natural or accidental by police, but considered suspicious by family or community members; and nine per cent are cases where the nature of the case is unknown—it is unclear whether the woman was murdered, is missing or died in suspicious circumstances.

The NWAC says most of the cases have happened in the past 10 years and there is a major gap before the 1970s.

“Thirty-nine per cent of the cases in NWAC’s database occurred between 2000 and 2010, and 17 per cent occurred in the 1990s. In contrast, only two per cent of the cases in the database occurred before 1970. This gap strongly suggests that there are still many older cases to document,” stated the NWAC.

The group began holding vigils in 2011 when 11 were held until more than 200 in past years.

“Each year, family members, aboriginal community members, and concerned citizens gather for a vigil on October 4th to honour the memory of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Vigils take place in many communities across Canada as well as internationally. These gatherings serve to raise awareness and to provide support to families who have lost a loved one,” the NWAC said.

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