On October 29, hundreds of men and women packed the public square at Place des Arts in Montréal for a vigil saluting the courage of the Native women of Val d’Or who have spoken out against police abuse, and honouring the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country.
One of the worst fear-mongers in Canada is now hightailing it back to Calgary. But the pervasive legacy of racism in this country and the denigration of indigenous women has etched fear into many of our hearts. The courage of women in remote communities who have decided to come forward and identify themselves in the face of possible reprisal is extraordinary, and requires extraordinary community support. The role of Native Friendship Centres is vital, as is the sustained and visible support of the larger community.
The abuse and lack of respect that has been borne by far too many Native women for far too long now is spurring many to step up and speak out. The large number of men at the vigil and the large number of non-Native supporters speak volumes. It is time to honour women’s heart and leadership. In the words of the late Anishnabe elder, Art Solomon, “Our women carry the doorway to life for all humanity… When women take hold of their part and start to come together, that will right the balance.”