There was the moment of silence. The children stopped playing, the music was turned down and it appeared all vehicles either stopped or came to a sudden halt.
It wasn’t what I had expected. I recently attended the Day of Mourning for murdered and missing aboriginal women. The gathering was at Pleasant Hill School. I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but the gathering opened my eyes.
The names of Saskatchewan missing or murdered women stunned me to a point where I could feel a tear every time a name was read. I recognized some of the names and knew some of the women.
I lived in the Riversdale area for more than 10 years, during which time I got to know many of my neighbours. Some have moved and many went on to complete their education, even at the post-secondary level.
When I lived there, Riversdale was considered as being a part of “The Hood.” Times have changed dramatically in the core neighbourhood. It’s a better place for the community and people.
The Day of Mourning gathering and march is something all like-minded people should attend. It’s heart breaking to put a real face on a very real person behind a missing woman who may not even make it on the evening news.
Jacqui, my partner at the time, was more in touch with the young women, but I got to know them also. We both got to know some of the children. Sometimes we would take the children to the Forestry Farm Park & Zoo or Pike Lake. For most of the children, this was the only trip they would have during their summer holiday. Even years later, as the children grew, they would come up and say, “Do you remember the time we went to Pike Lake?”
It wasn’t a big deal to take them out on trips, but to them it was memorable. Unfortunately, some of the girls ended up on the streets. Hearing the names of those who were lost or lost their lives, all I could think about was the little girl whose laughter could be heard throughout the zoo when she first saw an eagle. Or the little girl, with a toothless grin, on her first attempt at swimming in the waters of Pike Lake. I couldn’t shake the images of those beautiful children during the reading of the names. I kept thinking, “These are my children.”
The one thing that is not often mentioned is many of the aboriginal women murdered are killed by aboriginal men. Maybe we should start looking at the deeper issues of domestic violence.
Not to make excuses, but many of these men are part of a generational ripple effect of indigenous nations that were hunted. Hurt people hurt people. This hurt needs to be healed. More resources must be directed for police, detectives and forensic sciences.
I often hear one big stumbling block for ongoing investigations is lack of manpower and financial resources. Well, let’s give agencies what they need. Federal elections are coming. Let’s make an issue or at least a scene. Our sisters need us.
It seems some of these children, both girls and boys, didn’t have a chance. They were surrounded by serious alcohol and extreme drug abuse. There was one girl, around 11 at the time, who used to stop by our place before and after school. She would ask if she could watch our television.
After a while, I figured out she was only looking for something to eat. One late night, she showed up almost in tears and wanted to know if she could spend the night. She claimed no one was home at her place. I took a walk to her place and found the house had no power. Her mom was passed out on the couch.
I then realized why she didn’t want me to walk her home previously. She was too embarrassed by the environment in which she was forced to live. This was a family in pain. Sometimes all it takes is to show you care.
It’s not as prevalent as it used to be, but there is still pain in the core neighbourhoods of Saskatoon. But at least now the children are playing as they should be.
They’re dreaming of a future that wasn’t possible for some. Much of this is because of the hard work people have done. I thank god for the outreach workers, volunteers and Christian soldiers who are out there doing something positive.