Participants in last year’s vigil — Image Credit: Kathy Michaels

Kelowna’s 6th Annual Women’s Memorial Vigil

She’s been reduced to stereotypes and mistreated by men she’s never met, she told the crowd.

The marginalization and abuse suffered by Canada’s aboriginal women will be in the spotlight Feb. 14, for the 6th Annual Women’s Memorial Vigil.

The vigil, which is held to honor Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada, welcomes all members of the community to join together to honour the memory of Indigenous women who have died as a result of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence.

That violence is something that participants of last year’s event said happens without much provocation.

Speaking outside the Kelowna courthouse to a crowd of about 50 people, Harron Hall, a cousin of murder victim Roxanne Louie, talked about how she could easily be among the statistics brought forward that day.

Simply because of the colour of her skin, she’s been reduced to stereotypes and mistreated by men she’s never met, she told the crowd.

The inequities dealt to aboriginal women is something Hall has described time and again in the months since her cousin was killed.

She’s used her voice to advocate for her peers and highlight systemic shortcomings that appeared as the investigation into her cousin’s disappearance got underway in January of 2015.

“Both the initial response from the media and the RCMP speak to the marginalization of indigenous women. As a family we were appalled when the RCMP spokesperson portrayed Roxanne as another Indian woman just out partying. This dismissed the urgency of the situation and very real concerns her family had for her safety,” Hall said, in an interview.

“These concerns were very well articulated to both RCMP and media.”

The issue extends in a report released by the RCMP in 2014, the pressures on indiginous communities were highlighted.

It said that a total of 1,181 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or are missing between 1980 and 2012. Of those, 1,017 are homicide victims.

There are 164 Indigenous women and girls are still missing and 225 cases are still unsolved.

Indigenous women and girls make up 4.3 percent of the total female population but make up 11.3 percent of the murdered and missing.

A National Inquiry into those deaths was launched Sept. 1, 2016. They are expected to submit an interim report in the fall of 2017 and a final report by the end of 2018.

According to the inquiry’s mandate, the commissioners will investigate the root causes of violence against indigenous women and girls. The commissioners are also open to hearing from indigenous men and boys who have relevant testimony, but there will be no forensic reviews of cases involving men and boys.

The event will be held at the Kelowna Courthouse, 1355 Water Street on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 5pm.