Red Deer has joined other municipalities in calling for a national inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes cried as she spoke about the impact of talking to the families of missing and murdered women, the Walking with Our Sisters installation in Red Deer and the red dresses at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
She said the red dresses represented absence and death.
“They were … symbolizing red the colour of blood,” she said. “Red, the colour of spilled blood and red the colour of love.”
In 2014, RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson said nearly 1,200 Aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada in the last three decades, of which 1,000 were murdered.
Wyntjes said as a city councillor it is important to take action and give messages to the federal government that it must be accountable and act upon issues that the citizens are asking for.
“There are too many days that we listen to the media or see it on social media that there may be a missing Aboriginal woman, sister, daughter here in Alberta and across Canada,” she said. “They are always sad stories … when you read those stories, you can’t help but be changed.”
The city joins the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in asking the federal government to hold a comprehensive, independent national inquiry into the missing and murdered women.
In June, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report was released containing 94 recommendations for action by all levels of government. It followed six years of hearings from thousands of residential school survivors and their families.
Council endorsed five Truth and Reconciliation recommendations aimed at municipalities. The City of Red Deer will work with Urban Aboriginal Voices Society to prepare a statement of reconciliation based on the framework outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Wyntjes and Coun. Lynne Mulder are council’s representatives on the society. Wyntjes said this is an opportunity for continued conversations with the Aboriginal community.
The city will also continue its work of implementing the recommendations and develop an action plan in partnership with the Urban Aboriginal Voices Society. Four others fall under the scope of the Red Deer Museum and Archives and will be referred to the museum board for consideration.
“It is a point in our history as Canadians that we acknowledge what happened and heal. It is not about the finger pointing but new opportunities to build stronger and better communities,” said Wyntjes.
Coun. Ken Johnston, who sat on the Remembering the Children committee, said he is proud to be a citizen of a city that is working so diligently to keep the memory and commemorating the sites.
Johnston said an inquiry like this does not take away from Canada’s ability to recognize its weaknesses and to respond to what it should be doing as a country.
“It is time for us to address this issue head on,” said Johnston. “It’s time for us to take our Canadian identity from its roots forward.”
Mulder said she was never more disappointed when she heard the federal government was not taking this issue on.
“I think that was a big kick in the face to all of us and in particular to our Aboriginal people,” said Mulder. “I strongly support it. I was very close to Walking with Our Sisters. It was something that moved me, that changed me.”
Mayor Tara Veer said the city was part of the discussion when the motion was adopted at the floor of the FCM.
“Ultimately all have a responsibility to safeguard and bring a voice to those who are voiceless,” said Veer. “I share Coun. Wyntjes’ sentiments that 1,200 plus missing and murdered are not forgotten.”
About 350 children attended the Red Deer residential school between 1893 and 1919. The mayor previously proclaimed June 11, 2014, as Remembering the Children Day to encourage Red Deerians to engage in the healing, reconciliation and restoration efforts of the Remembering the Children Society.
Sister in Spirit Day was proclaimed on Oct.2, 2014, as encouraging Red Deerians to honour the lives of Aboriginal women and girls who have been victimized.
The city recognized National Aboriginal History Month and National Aboriginal Day on June 21.