Eight years ago, Caceila Trahan, the Sault’s Indian Friendship Centre youth representative, took part in her first Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls outside the Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse.
Early Wednesday afternoon, the 11th Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls took place at the same spot, and Trahan shared the bittersweet story of the real life nightmare experienced by herself and her mother, Glenda Doughty, in front of a large audience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
In 2015, Trahan launched a campaign to find her mother, who had been caught up in a world of alcoholism and prostitution, missing for 14 years.
“My mother went missing when I was only nine years old,” Trahan said.
“Her life was full of poverty, addiction and abuse. By the time she was 12 years old, she had already been drugged, raped and trafficked. My mother had three children, none of which she had been able to raise,” said Trahan, who was raised in the Sault by her father.
“My mother was abused by every man she ever trusted…but my mother is alive and well,” Trahan said.
“With the help of Sault Ste. Marie Police, the RCMP and the media, in late 2015 I found my mother,” exclaimed Trahan, both joyful and tearful.
Indigenous people and their leaders have repeatedly called on government authorities to look into cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“You see, there is hope, and justice is possible, but only when the right actions are taken, we need to take action, and this is why we march,” Trahan said.
“Don’t stop marching until justice for missing Indigenous people rings across the nation,” Trahan exhorted the audience.
Sault MPP Ross Romano, in attendance Wednesday, gave a brief speech in which he praised Trahan, pointing to her current accomplishments and her future as a leader.
Trahan told SooToday she is now in regular contact with her mother.
There needs to be a fundamental change in society toward women, stated Cory McLeod, Missanabie Cree First Nation deputy chief.
“The solution for men is to support women,” McLeod said.
“We need leaders to get those dollars to help those front line workers, for policing, we’ve all been impacted…women are not valued in this society the way they should be.”
“As men, we really need to teach those children, teach those boys how to treat women, no violence in the home,” McLeod said.
From 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, the annual event included songs, drumming and several speeches, focusing on murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Several Indigenous leaders, including Garden River First Nation Chief Paul Syrette and Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers, addressed the audience.
Participants then marched along Queen Street to The Summit at 302 Queen Street East, where lunch was provided.
A sharing circle was scheduled for sharing of personal stories.
The Memorial March originated 27 years ago, on Feb. 14, in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, calling for attention to the high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
According to the RCMP’s 2015 updated report Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, 1,017 Indigenous women have been murdered over the past three decades.
174 Indigenous women were missing, and 111 of those cases were under suspicious circumstances, but remain unsolved.
Statistics Canada, in 2011, reported rates of violence against Indigenous women is three times higher than for non-Indigenous women, and seven times higher for homicide rates.
Wednesday’s event took place as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) hearings were held in Moncton, New Brunswick, as part of a national inquiry.