Gerri Pangman and Kim McPherson have been taking part in events and gatherings that honour and remember missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls for many years because they both believe it is important to continue raising the issue, and because they both know what it is like to lose a loved one to violence.
“For me, I think it’s really important to just keep raising the issue and to just never stop being the voice for the victims,” Pangman said on Thursday while taking part in an event outside of Winnipeg City Hall.
The event was one of many held on Thursday in Winnipeg and across Canada, as May 6 is recognized as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
Pangman and her sister McPherson said they have both lost women in their lives to murder, and don’t want the memory of their relatives to ever be forgotten.
They also want to make sure that the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is top of mind not only for Indigenous people, but for all people in this country, as over the last several decades there have been thousands of reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
“For me, it’s to remember the lives that were taken prematurely, and to hope that our children and our daughters and granddaughters don’t have to go through another tragedy like the one in our family, and ones in other families other communities,” McPherson said.
“We want to reach out to all Canadians, and all Canadians need to learn about this issue, and to be champions with us and to walk with us.”
But while the sisters say they want to raise awareness, they also hope events like the one on Thursday help to push all levels of government to make decisions and enact policies to try to keep Indigenous women and girls safe, and to prevent more from being murdered or going missing.
Pangman said that should start with governments working to enact the 231 Calls for Justice that were put forward in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
“We both testified at the inquiry, and the 231 Calls for Justice need to be implemented immediately,” Pangman said.
“We need to hold governments and institutions and agencies accountable, and we need to have an office to do that, so that they can measure if funding and investments are actually having an impact on the ground for women and children.
“With the 231 Calls for Justice they have the framework right there, and governments need to take it seriously and move quickly.”
A number of other events took place in Winnipeg on Thursday to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls, including a march that saw hundreds walk from Memorial Park in downtown Winnipeg to The Forks, where a gathering was planned at the Oodena Celebration Circle.
Events were also planned for Thompson, The Pas, Selkirk, Portage la Prairie and several others to acknowledge the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun