By: BRIANNE SMITH
From the time the Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS) organization was created in 2005, approximately 600 Aboriginal women have been reported missing or murdered.
FSIS is a volunteer organization dedicated to supporting families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
However, Bridget Tolley, co-founder of FSIS, says she believes the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is much higher than current data shows.
In 2010, the first database of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada came to a halt when it ran out of government funding. At the time it closed, 600 victims had been recorded in the Sisters in Spirit database, which was developed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
“The same 600 figure has been used since 2010,” Tolley says.
Families of the missing women pleaded for the government to take further action in aiding in the search of missing Aboriginal women, but so far have seen little progress.
FSIS puts on two fundraising events each year. The money raised in these events goes towards supporting the families of the women who have be murdered or gone missing.
Nicole Bayes-Fleming, a student at Carleton University attended a vigil honoring the missing and murdered indigenous women in October.
“It was a hopeful and positive environment, definitely a family affair,” Bayes-Flemming said. “There were kids holding signs and protesting too.”
Lighting candles is a tradition at the FSIS vigils. “Everything got more somber… the lighting of the candles acknowledges that a lot of lives have been lost,” Bayes-Flemming said.
The FSIS vigils have garnered significant public attention. The events are marketed through word of mouth, the FSIS Facebook group, and well as through their main sponsor, Amnesty International. Tolley said it is important for young people to be involved in the cause, and has also seen an increase in the amount of young students who attend the vigils.
“We’re thankful for all the young university students who have been a huge support…it is for them. We want a future without violence.”
During the UN Special Rapporteur’s visit to Canada in October, to address aboriginal human rights abuses, FSIS voiced their concerns.
“I think the world should here our stories,” Tolley said. She says she hopes Anaya’s visit will bring Canada’s attention to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, and will be able to raise more awareness worldwide.
More information about the FSIS organization can be found at: www.facebook.com/pages/Families-of-Sisters-in-Spirit