Sisters in Spirit
Updated: Jan 27
This week, we continue our discussions about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada, as well as other gender-related Indigenous issues. Today’s post is about Sisters in Spirit, a powerful response to the national crisis of MMIWG.
One part of the Sisters in Spirit initiative is Sisters in Spirit day, a day that honours the memories of the more than 1200 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada.  Sisters in Spirit day takes place on October 4. On this day, vigils and other events are held across Canada to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to support their family members and loved ones. 
For example, in October 2022, the Indigenous Law Students’ Association and the Wahkohtowin Law & Governance Lodge hosted a Sisters in Spirit Memorial Vigil at the University of Alberta. There were opening prayers, guest speakers, drumming, and a moment of silence to honour and remember the lives of all missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. It was a moving and emotional event, and though I wish more people had attended, it was powerful to know that on the same day, all across the country, there were others also holding events to raise awareness, to honour the missing and murdered, and to show support for the loved ones and families.
Photo credit: https://cpcml.ca/Tmlw2020/Articles/W500378.HTM
More broadly, the Sisters in Spirit initiative is a campaign that was started by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) “to raise awareness about the high rates of racialized and sexualized violence against” Indigenous women in Canada.  The Sisters in Spirit initiative is driven and led by Indigenous women, as many Indigenous movements are . The initiative undertakes work and research to understand the root causes of racialized and sexualized violence, and to create policy, programs, and services to help reduce this violence. 
One of the important messages from the Sisters in Spirit initiative is that we have to be careful not to place blame on victims.  It’s especially important to keep this in mind, because blaming the victim is often unintentional, and can occur even during efforts to reduce violence. For example, violence prevention strategies can sometimes place the burden on the victim to keep themselves safe, which takes the responsibility away from the “perpetrators of violence and the society that allows violence to exist.” 
Another valuable finding from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative is that violence is connected to numerous factors. Among other things, violence is related to economic security, affordable housing, education, access to childcare, clean water, and equality. 
Violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people is not an isolated issue, and it doesn't take place in a cultural vacuum. Everything and everyone is interconnected and impacts one other.
Every small change matters, and our actions and words can be the difference. We don't have to wait until next October 4 to honour those we've lost, or to work towards a safer future.
A safer future for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals means a better and brighter future for all of Canada.
Until next time,
Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG
 “Sisters in Spirit Day” (2023) online: Government of Alberta <https://www.alberta.ca/sisters-in-spirit.aspx>.
 “Sisters in Spirit initiative” (2016) online: UN Women Global Database on Violence against Women <https://evaw-global-database.unwomen.org/en/countries/americas/canada/2005/sisters-in-spirit-initiative#:~:text=The%20Sisters%20in%20Spirit%20initiative,years%20(2005%2D2010)>.
 “Sisters in Spirit” (January 2022) online (pdf): Trent University <https://www.trentu.ca/education/sites/trentu.ca.education/files/documents/SistersinSpirit_Handout_revJan2022.pdf>.
 Supra note 3.
 “What Their Stories Tell Us: Research findings from the Sisters In Spirit initiative” (2010) at 32, online (pdf): Native Women’s Association of Canada <https://www.nwac.ca/assets-knowledge-centre/2010_What_Their_Stories_Tell_Us_Research_Findings_SIS_Initiative-1.pdf>.