Hosted by the Awo Taan Healing Lodge, a walk and rally was held on Oct. 2 with approximately 250 people in attendance, raising awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
Nenshi told the audience at the rally that last March, he and council made a presentation to the final Truth and Reconciliation meeting in Edmonton, indicating Calgary’s plan to make a gesture of reconciliation.
“For this first time in the history of this city, we have declared a year,” Nenshi said.
“We have declared this year to be the year of reconciliation, the year that native and non-native people come together, to recognize our shared past and more important to work towards our shared future,” he said.
Starting at city hall, participants walked through downtown carrying signs and voicing chants, such as “Two, four, six, eight. No more violence, no more hate.”
As the walk entered heavy vehicle traffic, some drivers honked their horns. Police officers patrolled the walk on bicycles, staying ahead of the participants.
Kevan Stuart of the Calgary Police Service attended the walk and spoke at the rally.
“We want you to know that we are committed to working alongside with you,” Stuart said.
“I want to thank you for allowing the Calgary Police Service to be a part of this and I congratulate you on your determination and your perseverance to see justice and to make sure that your family members and our family members are never forgotten.”
Several speakers voiced their support, and the rally featured an open microphone to anyone who wanted to speak.
Several people shared stories of their mothers, sisters, aunts, and nieces who had gone missing or who were found murdered and their killers never found.
One of the stories involved Deidra Meguinis, who was there to honour her sister, Talia Meguinis, of the Tsuu T’ina reserve.
Talia Meguinis’ body was found in a dumpster in Red Deer in early 2012 and Deidra said her sister’s killer still has not been brought to justice.
A fact sheet was passed around at the rally stating that more than 1,200 indigenous women and girls were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012.
Of these, 164 indigenous women and girls are still missing and the number continues to grow, with 225 cases still unsolved and 49 per cent of the women murdered in Canada being Aboriginal.
“It is shameful that we, as Canadians, have allowed this to happen,” Nenshi said.
“But we live in a place where we can make change.
“We are here today to join our voices with our allies, to stand here in vigil, to remember those who have been hurt, to remember those who have been lost, but also to commit ourselves to strengthening our community,” the mayor said.
Nenshi, on behalf of city council and the citizens of Calgary, then proclaimed Oct. 2 as Sisters in Spirit Vigil Day in Calgary.
“I think today’s rally went really well,” said Autumn EagleSpeaker, a member of the Idle No More Movement.
“I think it’s really good that Mayor Nenshi has stepped up, because we need more of our leadership to actively pay attention to the larger issues,” EagleSpeaker said.
“I think it shows a lot of his leadership and the direction he’ll be taking Calgarians.”