Justice, closure at heart of walk
by Denis St. Pierre, Sudbury Star
With the finish line of a cross-country journey in sight, a group of aboriginal activists is as adamant as ever in its demand that governments address the deaths of an estimated 3,000 women during the last four decades.
"We want to see a public inquiry into the deaths of all these women, because they deserve it," Gladys Radek, an activist from the Gitksan Nation in British Columbia, said Sunday in Sudbury.
Radek is one of the organizers of Walk for Justice, a 4,700-kilometre trek that began in Vancouver on June 21 -- National Aboriginal Day -- and is scheduled to end Sept. 15 in Ottawa. The walkers, most of whom are aboriginal women, are commemorating and demanding government action on the deaths and disappearances of 3,000 women in Canada in the last 40 years.
About 80 per cent of the murdered and missing women are aboriginal, noted Radek, who lost her 22-year-old niece in British Columbia in September 2005.
Many of the walkers are family members or friends of murdered or missing women who need "justice, closure and accountability," she said.
The walkers, who were scheduled to leave Sudbury today on their way to Toronto, hope to arrive in Ottawa by Sept. 15 to coincide with the start of the fall session of Parliament.
"We are bringing a message to Parliament. We have over 3,000 names," said Bernie Williams, another organizer of the walk. "We are bringing the message that these are crimes against humanity."
While the walkers' goal is to arrive in Ottawa at the start of the next parliamentary session, there appears to be a possibility that the government will not reconvene at the time, if Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls a fall election. But such prospects have not deterred the walkers, said Williams.
"We are not going away," she said. "We are coming back in four years, to do the same walk again. This is very serious work for us."
The walkers were welcomed to Sudbury on Sunday by a group including members of the local aboriginal community, social activists, labour leaders, Laurentian University students, Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas and other New Democratic Party politicians.
The group gathered on the Laurentian campus for speeches, prayer, a smudging ceremony and a dinner, then spent the night at the university's student centre.
I don't know anything about the Walk's itinerary from here, but it you live in southern Ontario it is probably worth looking around on the web for it -- if it is coming to your city, please support it!