A No More Stolen Sisters flag was raised on Sarnia’s waterfront Sunday in a brief ceremony before a march to Sarnia City Hall, where symbolic red dresses were hung to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women from across Canada.
The event was scaled back because of pandemic restrictions, with organizers broadcasting it on social media and encouraging others to hold their own walks around the community.
“Our people need healing, and this is an opportunity to open that door for healing,” said Deborah Munroe, executive director of the Sarnia Lambton Native Friendship Centre.
She spoke briefly and offered a prayer before Marina Plain raised the flag and several other women drummed and sang at noon Sunday.
“We’re creating awareness about the violence against Indigenous women and girls,” Munroe said. “We want it to stop.”
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said in its final report in 2019 “that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
While Indigenous peoples represented about five per cent of Canada’s total population in 2019, they accounted for 27 per cent of homicide victims, according to a report by Statistics Canada.
“We need to say, ‘Enough is enough,” Munroe said. “Let’s move forward in a good way and support each other through this healing that’s much needed.”
She said red dresses displayed around the city “represent the spirits of our sisters who were taken from us in a violent way.”
Red roses placed on the snow during the event “represent our love and respect for them,” she added.
“For us, this march symbolizes strength, power, unity and an opportunity for healing within our Indigenous community,” Munroe said.