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The Native Women’s Society of the Northwest Territories is expected to join its sister organizations across Canada in moving ahead with the annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil in early October despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The national body of the organization issued a news release on Thursday stating that its annual event in Ottawa will proceed on Oct. 4 in a continued effort to remember the disproportionately high number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit women who have been murdered in Canada.

Gail Cyr speaks to a crowd at the Sisters in Spirit Vigil at Northern United Place in 2019. The event will be held online this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
NNSL file photo.

The NWT branch is holding a separate event – either on Oct. 4 or 5 – but was still in the midst of planning details at press deadline on Thursday.

The national vigil will be held online through a webcast at noon Mountain Time on the NWAC national website and Facebook page.

Viewers will be asked to light one candle during the event and then light another one after sundown on the same night as part of an effort to honour the lives taken.

Typically, the Ottawa ceremony involves a march to Parliament Hill.

Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), will be emcee of the national event, and there will be speakers from across the county who are survivors or family members of people who have been impacted. Whitman said it’s important to recognize the issue every year but also to ensure that all participants are safe from the pandemic.

“We have to recognize the knowledge of our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers who have told us that those we have lost cannot be forgotten,” Whitman said in the news release. “We need to be able to support the families of those who have been taken from us and to let them know that we will continue to do that even though we are in a pandemic. We are not going to forget them.”

Gloria Galloway, media spokesperson for the national Native Women’s Association of Canada, said since the vigil began in 2004, well over 100 branches have participated in their own events. Local branches will be able to register their events with the national body next week.

The Native Women’s Society of the Northwest Territories held its annual event last year at Northern United Place  and details of the 2020 edition will be reported as they become available.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and missed deadline 

This year will marks the first anniversary of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report, which was issued in June 2019. The report, based on consultations with almost 1,500 family members of missing and murdered women and girls, as well as survivors of violence, called the pattern in Canada “genocide.”

The NWAC has been attempting to hold the federal government to account on its commitment to release a national action plan to meet the report’s calls to justice, creating a strategy to end the violence. The news release states that a June deadline on this document has passed.

“The organization had provided Ottawa with a list of actions, based on consultations with its grassroots members, that could have been the basis of such a plan,” states the release. “It is now forming a committee of Indigenous experts and leaders to provide additional input in the hope that plan can soon be tabled.”

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. He came from Prince Edward County, Ont., and obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University...

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