When Terrie Ann Dauphinais was murdered in Calgary on April 29, 2002, she didn’t just leave three children and grieving parents behind. She left many questions unanswered, like why has her death remained unsolved after nine years, and what is the government going to do about violence against Aboriginal women?
Around 30 people attended a vigil that was held on Ottawa’s Victoria Island April 29 to remember Terrie Ann and other Native women and their families who have been victims of violence. The opening and closing prayers were done by Elder Annie Smith St. Georges.
Sue Martin, Terrie’s mother, was there and like any grieving mother found it hard to speak about her daughter. “On March 8, 2002, Terrie filed a domestic complaint with the Calgary police but no one was charged. 52 days later, my baby, who had three small children, was brutally beaten to death in her home.”
Ellen Gabriel, former president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association, spoke and asked, “We see victims getting younger and younger, why is that?”
After the vigil, there was a fundraiser for the families of the Sisters In Spirit and people came to speak about their loved ones and share photos. There was also music, art and performances by eight-year-old hoop dancer Theland and his mother drummer and singer Elaine Kicknosway, Ms Gizelle, Bella Straight, Lady G and David Finkle.
The speaker for the evening was Beverley Jacobs, the past president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Other guests and performers included Christopher D. Herodier and Doreen Stevens, and there was an art auction featuring the works of Aileen Joseph, Jessica Pinto, Kristine Neglia and Theo Pelmus.
About 150 people came to the event to show their support for the Sisters in Spirit. Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar, Trevor Haché, NDP candidate for Ottawa-Vanier, and Scott Bradley, Liberal candidate for Ottawa Centre, shared a few words.
Kristen Gilchrist, one the organizers of the fundraiser, said, “The turnout was really good, we had a great feast and performances.”
Though the event didn’t raise much money, organizers vowed to have more fundraisers to draw attention to the plight of Native women across Canada. Gilchrist added that it was important to have a positive event where families and community members could come together and share stories of their lost loved ones.
Gilchrist is optimistic about the NDP becoming the Official Opposition in Parliament, but is incensed with the Conservatives winning a majority. “We are going to continue our vigils on Parliament Hill and hopefully the NDP will push the government to address the issue of missing and murdered Native women,” she said.
Gilchrist concedes that it will be an uphill battle, but after five years of Stephen Harper’s politics, we’re used to that.
Briget Tolley, who lost her mother when an SQ police cruiser struck and killed her 10 years ago, wanted a public inquiry into the incident, but her request was denied by the Quebec government. Now she is trying to get the federal government to overturn Quebec’s decision.
Like Gilchrist, Tolley knows there is lots of work to be done to address the issue of missing and murdered Native women. “I was pretty upset to hear that the Conservatives said the issue was dealt with. I don’t think we can expect any support from them.”
She was referring to comments made by Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau on Twitter that the issue of the missing and murdered women was already dealt with. She was also afraid that any support might disappear after this year and that the $10 million budget that the Harper government allocated towards the issue was being postponed until 2013. “He’s shutting down so many programs, but we are going to keep fighting regardless of what he does.”
That was the common theme from all involved: keep fighting for recognition, but now that the Conservatives have their majority in Parliament, that fight just got a lot harder.
The ugly truth of the matter of the murdered and missing was brought into the limelight recently. The recent announcement by Montreal police that the body of missing 10-year-old Jolene Riendeau had been discovered, once again reminded the Native community of an ugly truth. Women and children who are white and who are victims of violence seem to get much more attention than women of colour, like Terrie, Maisy, Shannon, Tiffany and the thousands who have gone missing or have been victims of violence in the last 30 years.
If Harper wants to introduce his so-called “tough on crime” bill, maybe he can start with the men who commit these violent crimes, and actually deal with the issue of violence against women instead of making false promises once again.