Sisters In Spirit and the Battle For Missing Native Women Healing and Prevention

By Frank Larue

The Pickton trial has unveiled the brutal ways in which women were killed on the pig farm in New Westminster. The horror show will continue until the present trial comes to a end, then it will repeat itself two more times. The projected time period for the present case, two years; so far the projections have proved accurate. We can safely assume then, the last trial will end in 2112.

Will anyone care at that point? Remember we are talking five years from now. The judicial decision to have three trials reflected little wisdom from the Ministry of Justice and since we have five years to wait for the results, let us consider the pitfalls of that decision.

During the next five years, the media coverage on Pickton and the trial will wane but not stop; public interest is another question. The most ghoulish homicide acts can become stale editorial copy after five years of repetition, as a result the public will distance itself from the proceedings. The curiosity and media sensationalism created by the first trial won’t be repeated. Irrelative of the verdict, the general consensus will be, ‘Get it over with’ instead of what can be done to make sure this never happens again.

The legacy of the trial should have ramifications that will only be understood years down the road but since a large percentage of the victims were native women. The first item on the post-trial agenda should be acknowledging the marginalization of native women by sexual predators and why police won’t accept this fact and act accordingly. Consider for a moment the demographic breakdown of the province, the native population in B.C is 2.5 percent of the total population yet the percentage of missing women who are native is 56 percent.

The facts speak for themselves yet police continue to cast a blind eye, there a many women’s groups who have tried to make the public more aware of the problem, the march on Hasting’s every year, a reminder of the women who have died or are missing is one of the more prominent protest. The problem is most of the organizations are volunteer based and act independently with little or no financial support. One of the few organizations that are government funded and have been operating across Canada. SISTERS IN SPIRIT have taken on the role of dealing with the missing native women and have become an umbrella for other women organizations.

Sister’s in Spirit are dealing with some of the families who have lost a daughter or a sister, helping with the healing and networking with other families and support groups. They are also raising public awareness, helping native communities educate the children on the plight of these women and how their fate could have been avoided.

The most daunting challenge for Sister’s in Spirit lies ahead, when the Picton trials have ended. Will they be able to initiate dialogue between government , police and native leaders along with representatives from their organization to address the tragic problem of Missing native women?

The missing native women issue may never disappear but surely a change in police attitude might go a long way in dealing with the problem. Government’s laissez-faire attitude could use a little tweaking, perhaps funding for some of the women’s shelters and organizations would show a real sense of commitment. It won’t be a easy task yet Sisters in Spirit want to be the difference. Let us say a prayer for the Sisters because the lives of native women hang in the balance.