The numbers are growing as the fight for a national inquiry into missing and murdered women continues.
A demonstration was held on Aug. 18 with the familiar voices for the United Urban Warrior Society (UUWS) being joined by new supporters who refuse to take the federal government’s “no” for an answer.
Gathering at Giant Tiger, the group walked down the road before coming to a stand at the junction of highways 6 and 17.
Isadore Pangowish, leader of the UUWS Manitoulin-Sudbury chapter, has organized demonstrations and rallies such as the one held on a humid Tuesday morning.
“Our numbers have grown over the two years,” Pangowish said. “The more we protest maybe, just maybe, we will get our national inquiry.”
A national inquiry has been demanded of the federal government.
“The more and more that we come out, maybe Stephen Harper and Bernard Valcourt will open their eyes.”
While online comments are a mix of support for the cause there is the presence of frustration at the highway being shut down momentarily. But the negativity will not deter the UUWS in any future events.
Pangowish said they were closing the highway a few minutes at a time, but there may come a day when it might be shut down longer.
“This is a government highway. We do not own this highway. It is not a First Nation highway.”
Just like the highway, the inquiry into the growing number of missing and murdered women isn’t a First Nation issue.
“This is for everyone, it doesn’t matter their race.”
His statement was echoed throughout the demonstration as Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare made the same remarks during one of the shutdown periods.
“This is for all women!” Hare exclaimed while pointing to the surrounding communities. “Not just Anishnabek (women), but the women in this community, and those communities out there.”
He called for community members to “stand with us.”
Hare said the demonstration is a political matter and they want leaders to “take hold” of the issue of missing and murdered women, starting with the inquiry.
“Politicians questioning what good would an inquiry be? For me, I think the role of the court system would be to strengthen up.”
Hare was referring to when a woman gets a restraining order against an individual, but the laws do not necessarily protect them.
“A restraining order, I truly believe, gives that individual more (power),” he said. “It’s a challenge. And it happens.”
He said it is sad for family members to grieve over the death of their loved one while the murderer is getting bail.
“That’s the hurting part.”
“It’s extremely important that the awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, and all women is brought to the forefront,” said Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing NDP incumbant candidate Carol Hughes, who was at the demonstration. “We need to have a comprehensive inquiry.”
Hughes said the national inquiry would help give closure to families. She also mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation report, which also supported the inquiry.
SheShegwaning First Nation Chief Joe Endanawas told the demonstrators that they are supported and be proud of who they are.
“It’s good that you’re here, support the cause,” he said.
Endanawas had a message for the women at the rally, saying they do not deserve to be talked down to or put down.
“We are human beings,” he said.
Still no answers
The hurt remains with family members, years after the death of a loved one.
It’s been two years since Michelle Atkinson’s daughter Cheyenne Fox was found dead in Toronto.
Fox came from the Loon Clan at the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island and was 20 years old when she fell from the 24th-floor balcony.
The Toronto police called the incident suicide. But her mother says it was murder.
How she was informed of her daughter’s death left Atkinson feeling like it was “just another dead Indian” to the people who told her the life-changing news.
“That’s how I feel,” she said between sobs. “I am angry because nothing has been done to this day.”
Atkinson and family friend Jackie Bowerman describes Fox as a very funny, caring mother.
“She was lively and energetic,” said Bowerman.
“She had her struggles, but she was coming home,” said her mother.
“They had people who really loved them,” she said between tears. “People who still love them.”
“I lost a cousin way back in the 1950s, she disappeared and we never heard from her,” said Endanawas. “We still don’t know where she is or how she died. She must have died…”
The missing and the
Kassandra Boulduc, 22, of Elliot Lake, was found off the shores of Lake Ontario in 2013.
Tina Fontaine, 15, of Sagkeeng First Nation was found murdered in Red River Manitoba in 2014.
Meagan Pilon from Sudbury disappeared at age 15 in 2013. She has yet to be found.
These women are just a handful of Canadian women who have gone missing or have been discovered murdered in the past couple of years.
A report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated there have been more than 6,500 female homicides between 1980 and 2012.