In Memory of the Women (Text Available)

March 10th, 2019
- Special guest Marie-Josée Tremblay with Rev. Diane Rollert, with additional music by Lillias Lippert and the Phoenix Community Choir directed by Eleuthera Diconca-Lippert

On Sunday, March 10, our recording system failed. It was a beautiful service held on a stormy day. Here are a few excerpts. Our musical guest was Marie-Josée Tremblay. You can purchase her full album tribute to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman by clicking on the link here.

We’ve also included links to two of the songs she sang as part of the service (with her permission):

Prelude: Pour vous mes soeurs, Marie-Josée Tremblay
— Music for the Candles of Care: Did You See Me, Marie-Josée Tremblay

Opening Words: Rev. Diane Rollert

Reconciliation?
Again?
Why?
We’ve done this before.
We spent an entire month focusing on reconciliation three years ago.
Why do this again?  

Because the history is so long and painful.
Because the truth is still something we need to face.
Because the problems are so vast and the steps we’ve made toward solutions are so small. Because reconciliation is more than words and reading a few articles or books.
Because it’s easy for those who have power and privilege to walk away,
to ignore the things that make us uncomfortable.
Because we need to let our Indigenous siblings know
that we’re still learning how to be better allies.  

Today, on this Sunday closest to International Women’s Day,
we’re taking this time to remember the thousands of
Indigenous women and girls whose disappearance and loss of life
have been ignored or forgotten, here on Turtle Island,
here in this place we call Canada. 

As we light our chalice today,
as we light this sacred flame of our community,
may we call upon the spirits of all the Indigenous women and girls,
as well as all the two-spirited souls,
who have also gone missing
or lost their lives to violence,
to be with us in this hour,
to be held by our care and our concern,
to be affirmed in the beauty,
worth and dignity of their lives.

Introduction: Rev. Diane Rollert

Today, we’re taking this time to remember the thousands of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls, here in this place we call Canada. We don’t know the actual number, perhaps it’s two-thousand, or four-thousand, Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or have been murdered since the 1970s. We do know that the majority of these cases have been ignored. Efforts to search for missing women are slow or nonexistent, and too many of the cases of murder have been too quickly closed and written off as accidental because of cultural and racial bias. We know that the families of these women and girls want to know the truth. They want closure and they want justice.

In 2016, the Canadian government finally opened an inquiry into this crisis. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has held hearings across the country, but the process has been politically fraught. In April, the final report will be released, and in June the inquiry is slated to be closed. But I fear we are a long way away from solving this problem or healing the wounds.

This is not a Sunday when I can say we will walk away with our minds and hearts filled with answers and a lightness of spirit. This is a day when we are most likely to walk away with heavy hearts and more questions.  But this is time we need to spend together, collectively. We need to remember. We need to learn. We need to hold close the spirits of the forgotten women and girls.

We need to cry out against the injustice that when one, white middle or upper class woman or girl is missing or murdered, all eyes are turned toward her story, as we question why someone so good can be the victim of something so bad. But when an Indigenous woman or a woman of colour, or a trans or two spirited person goes missing or is murdered, their stories are too often ignored, forgotten, and left beyond our caring. They are ignored because of the assumptions we make about who is good, who is worth caring about.

Too often, the disappearance or murder of an Indigenous woman receives little attention from the media or from authorities because it is assumed, whether consciously or not, that she is a disposable person — someone who is either mentally ill, a sex worker or an addict. The narrative we hear too often is that bad things happen to bad women. We tell a story without looking any further than the stereotypes we’ve come to accept, without searching for the truth, without acknowledging the inherent worth and dignity of every person, even when they are missing, even in death.

May we say no to this injustice. May we start saying no to the systemic racism we find all too easy to ignore. May we raise our voices to share in the outrage on behalf of every missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girl.

Our guest this morning, Marie-Josée Tremblay, has long been involved in the cause of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. I am so honoured to introduce her to you. Marie-Josée is a multidisciplinary artist of Algonquin origin. Elle s'inspire de ses expériences vécues allant même au-delà.  Après avoir sorti un album CD "Searching for you"  honorant les femmes autochtones disparues et assassinées, elle a réalisé un album EP "Ni l'une Ni l'autre" regroupant les musiques de son premier court-métrage.

Elle a également réalisé quatre courts-métrages avec la production Wapikoni Escale Montréal et UQAM. Elle a composé les musiques sur ses courts-métrages "Ni l'Une Ni l'Autre" et "Le Battement de ma Ville", 2015 - 2016. "Un Matin Tranquille" et "L'Envol" ont été sélectionné au Festival Présence Autochtone de Montréal, 2017 - 2018.

Candle Lighting and Meditation: Rev. Diane Rollert

In preparation for our meditation today, I’d like to light six candles of memory, commemoration, and hope. With each candle that is lit, will you join me in saying, “We hold them in our hearts.”

The first candle is for all the Indigenous women and girls who are still missing. May every possible resource be brought to bear to search for them. May they found. May they be safe. May they be reunited with their loved ones. We hold them in our hearts.

The second candle is for all the Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered. May their bodies and their ashes be brought to the resting place that their loved ones call home. May their spirits be ever present with those who knew and cared for them. May their names and their stories never be forgotten. We hold them in our hearts.  

The third candle is for all the Indigenous transgender two-spirited persons who are also missing or have been murdered, and who share the same vulnerabilities as the women and girls. May their names and stories also never be forgotten. We hold them in our hearts.

The fourth candles is for all the families, friends and loved ones of those missing and murdered. For the children missing their parents, for the parents missing their children, for the siblings missing each other. For the friends who are feeling dispirited by their loss. May each find the answers, truth and closure they seek. We hold them in our hearts.

The fifth candle is for the loss and the trauma that remains in each of us through the history we all share.

As Kent Monkman writes (from his exhibit, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience/ Honte et préjugés : Une histoire de résilience, now showing at the McCord Museum):

“I remember the first catastrophes — the dark days of the epidemics; we had no resistance to the European plagues of smallpox, influenza and measles that ravaged our communities. Our members were reduced by three quarters; so many perished that those few who remained could not even bury our dead. Now the sicknesses of the body that stalk us have different names: tuberculosis, diabetes, HIV, AIDS, FAS. The sicknesses of the soul are many: far too many of our young people, growing up broken in the long shadow of residential school, are so bereft of hope that they take their own lives at horrifying rates. My heart aches for our missing and murdered indigenous women– each one a sister, mother, daughter, friend. We remember their names, all one thousand five hundred, and we hold their spirits tight. We mourn for those of our men we have lost to violence, trauma, mental disturbance and despair. Entangled in the darkness of their afflictions, trapped in the chaos of addictions, they suffer alone and in institutions. I visit my people to bring them the solace of our spirituality, that they may rise up out of this cycle of destruction, learn the language of their souls and be free once more.”

We hold them in our hearts.

Finally, the last candle is the sacred flame that burns with the hope that comes with resilience, rediscovery and healing. 

Please join me in the spirit of meditation and prayer:

 Let us take a collective breath together,
close our eyes if we wish,
and listen to the beating of our hearts. 
The healing begins when we cry.
The healing begins with the tears.
The healing begins when we open our hearts to the truth,
when we recognize the discomfort
that moves us toward action.
The healing begins when we break the silence.

Let us sit in quiet together,
sharing in this pain,
remembering that we do not have to do this work alone,
that we can turn to each other.
And when the drum calls us,
may we light a sacred fire of hope
together.  

Amen.