The National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) took place on Tuesday, October 4, and saw students of Merritt Secondary School host an awareness walk through downtown Merritt. MSS students were joined by district staff, students from other schools, and community members to bring attention to the ongoing crisis facing the country.
Indigneous women and girls continue to be violated and marginalized at much higher rates than other groups in Canada. The National Day of Action encourages Canadians to take action and seek justice to end violence against this segment of the population. Schools across SD58 took part in marking the day.
“We’re working across the country and throughout B.C. to bring awareness to this information,” said Shelley Oppenheim-Lacerte, SD58’s director of instruction for aboriginal education.
“We want everybody to be aware so that this tragedy does not continue on, and for our young people, we think about their safety and providing teachings so that they are aware and able to avoid going missing. That’s the work we’re doing right now in the district, and part of that is providing traditional and cultural teaching so that they’re taking care of themselves in a good way.”
Students gathered at the main doors to the high school on Chapman Street, gathering in their red shirts adorned with a student-designed artwork commemorating the MMIWG crisis Canada faces. They walked throughout the downtown core, including along Quilchena Avenue and Garcia Street. Pedestrians, those driving by, and those inside downtown businesses watched as the sea of red shirts carried their signs and brought awareness to the ongoing MMIWG crisis. Attendees said the work being done by the district is unlike any other in B.C.
“I haven’t seen this work to this extent in a school district in BC, so what we’re seeing here in Merritt is something amazing,” said Melissa Moses, women’s representative for the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
“Including your high school and elementary students to spread the awareness and safety throughout the school district here, it’s beautiful work.”
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report in 2019, calling on all levels of government and to commit to the report’s 231 Calls to Justice. These calls include two calls for educators, including collaboration with Indigenous people to develop culturally appropriate curriculums.
“We stand with all women, children, and families who are impacted by this,” said the District’s Assistant Superintendent, Jane Kempston.
“This is not the work of the Indigenous community to do on their own. We stand beside, and we learn, and we listen. I think, ultimately, this moment is really about empowerment and empowering a community to say ‘not our kids, not our families, not our community members.’”
For more information on the MMIWG crisis, including the national inquiry’s report, visit www.mmiwg-ffada.ca.
Red Dress Walk by Marius Auer