Bernie Williams wanted the crowd of 50 gathered at Vernon’s Justice Park Wednesday morning to feel uncomfortable.
And it wasn’t because of the hot, sunny weather.
Williams, an advocate from the Downtown Eastside Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW), was the special speaker at a Red Dress Campaign, hosted by the Okanagan Indian Band. The campaign is to honour and remember the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls across Canada, which include a trio from the North Okanagan.
“I have a saying: ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,’” said Williams. “These women’s lives matter.”
The red dress is used to symbolize the missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The event was opened by a prayer from Okanagan band elder Virginia Gregoire, followed by the singing and drumming of a traditional Okanagan song.
After two hours at Justice Park, the campaign moved to Komasket Park on Westside Road for an afternoon that included workshops on self defence and healthy relationships.
The afternoon session was scheduled to finish with a community meal and a screening of the 2017 film River of Silence, shot near Merritt, about a First Nations woman who sets out to find answers about her murdered daughter.
The chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), Marion Buller, told a recent Kamloops audience that the final report into the inquiry will now allow governments and private-sector organizations to begin strategizing how to address the report’s 231 recommendations.
Buller said the report “cited the significant, persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic human rights and Indigenous-rights violations and abuses as the cause of the disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls.”
The report said the violence constituted genocide by the state against Indigenous people.
With files from Kamloops This Week