Adam JohnsonNorthern News Services
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
YELLOWKNIFE - Two weeks from now, the Native Women's Association of the NWT - and anyone they can bring with them - is going to start walking, and they won't stop until they get to Behchoko.
"We want to raise the community's understanding of violence against aboriginal women," said association executive director Denyse Nadon-Holder.
The second annual Journey for Change Walk will take the association and other Yellowknifers down Highway 3 to Behchoko, nearly 106 kilometres, on foot.
More than just raising general awareness, the group wants to address five specific cases, whose names and photos grace the front of their posters around town.
They include missing women Leona Brule, Charlene Catholique, Mary Rose Keadjuk and Rose Mary Villeneuve and murder victim Meriella Lennie.
More recently, a family in Fort Smith has been frantically searching for their daughter, Leanne Lori Benwell, who has been missing in Edmonton since March.
"We feel like we're being hunted," Nadon-Holder said.
"People need to see these women," she added. "This is not just a native women's issue, this is a community issue."
In 2004, Amnesty International released a report stating aboriginal women aged 25-44 were five times more likely to die of violence than other Canadian women of the same age. The report called this a "human rights tragedy."
This study also revealed an estimated 500 aboriginal women had gone missing or been found murdered in Canada the last 30 years, a number far in excess of their proportional representation in the country.
It's this statistic Nadon-Holder quotes most often.
"This is why we want people to walk with us," she said. "Violence has no boundaries; it's just there and we have to stand up together and deal with it."
"We need to let people know this is happening."
Const. Roxanne Dreilich, media representative with the Yellowknife RCMP, said statistics about missing Aboriginal women in the NWT are hard to calculate, as cases are not organized according to ethnicity.
The walk officially begins Sunday, July 15 at noon. Interested participants and volunteers can contact the Native Women's Association.