February is a month for remembering loved ones in different ways, especially on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
Valentine’s Day holds special meaning for First Nations people. It is a day that First Nations communities across the country remember missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Memorial walks, marches and vigils are held across the country annually to remember and honour missing and murdered aboriginal women. Some of our community members attend the memorial march that is held in Vancouver every year.
Our community of Lil’wat has been touched by loved ones who have gone missing. According to police records, Mabel Leo who was born on Jan. 21, 1950, went missing in 1969.
She is still listed as a missing person. Her family has been seeking answers for decades.
Women from neighbouring communities who are relatives of Lil’wat are also missing. Belinda Williams went missing around 1977. Her family is still seeking answers. Tanya Holyk went missing around 1996. It was confirmed in 2002 that her remains were found on the Pickton farm, and that Pickton had been charged with her murder.
It’s disconcerting to know that serial killers like Clifford Olson made their way to the Whistler area, and the back roads of Lil’wat territory. One of his victims, Louise Simonne Marie Evelyn Chartrand was murdered by Olson in 1981 at Whistler.
Native communities across the country still have countless loved ones who are missing and have tried unsuccessfully to get previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. He was steadfast in refusing to do, so stating that the issue was included in regular law related matters.
Native people rallied to vote in the last election, hoping that the native vote would make a difference to oust Harper from office, and it did.
Newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in his campaign to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. The Liberal government announced on Dec. 8, 2015 that it was launching the first phase of the inquiry.
The issue of missing and murdered aboriginal men has also been brought to light with this inquiry. According to the website missingaboriginal.ca, statistics state that from 1982 – 2011, aboriginal men consist of 71 per cent or 1,750 compared to 745 aboriginal women. Clearly these statistics indicate that this overall issue is something that needs a national inquiry.
I have three nieces whose father, Stanley Morris Peters Jr., has been missing since a hit and run incident in 1987 while hitch hiking in the Lil’wat community. My nieces were young teenagers when their father went missing. They have been seeking answers for 29 years.
Yes, February is a month for remembering. Hopefully the memorial march on Feb. 14 2016 and the launch of a national inquiry will give answers to families whose loved ones are still missing.