By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Two Alberta men are walking to Ottawa to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“We are fighting for every lost child in this world,” one of the men, Adam McDonald, told Global News.
McDonald and Stanley Gilbert Jean were welcomed by a gathering outside the legislature when they arrived in Edmonton on June 7.
The discovery of a grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School demonstrates the continuing need to have Indigenous voices heard, McDonald said.
“Our First Nations issues and Métis issues and Inuit issues have not been heard,” he said.
“It’s all going to resurface, and we’re never going to stop fighting for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.”
McDonald, who began walking to raise awareness for MMIWG five years ago, says he’s walked along every major highway in the country. “Once I start something, I’m never going to give up,” he said.
It’s Jean’s first time doing the walk, which he said in addition to raising awareness about a major issue is helpful on his path to sobriety.
Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton Beaver Hills House organized the June 7 greeting event. Leader Judith Gale told Global the cause is particularly close to her heart because her sister was murdered 40 years ago and it wasn’t taken seriously by police.
“Forty years ago, they never looked for her and still, 40 years later, they aren’t doing anything,” she said. “She laid in the morgue for three months with a tag on her toe as a Jane Doe. It’s a cause that’s dear to my heart and I do it for my sister.”
Gale, a Sixties Scoop survivor, said Indigenous children taken away from their parents for being Indigenous also hits close to home. She was taken from her family and sent to live with a white family on the other side of the country.
Gestures like McDonald’s and Jean’s go a long way to maintaining Indigenous traditions, Gale added.
“In our community, our men are so important,” she said. “They play an essential role and their role is to be warriors, to be our protectors. (To) go walking across Turtle Island in commemoration of (the) missing and murdered is fantastic. I wish more warriors would step up.”
The two men don’t have a set date for their arrival in Ottawa, because they want to stop and meet with supporters along the way.
Marion Buller, the chief commissioner of the inquiry into MMIWG, said in 2019 that the crux of the issue is a “persistent and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human and Indigenous-rights violations and abuses, perpetuated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state, designed to displace Indigenous people from their lands, social structures and governments, and to eradicate their existence as nations, communities, families and individuals.”
After the report, which contains 200 recommendations for different levels of government, came out, Buller told a crowd in Ottawa that “this is genocide.”
Stephanie Harpe, who also helped organize the welcoming event at the legislature, says there’s been no concrete progress on the inquiry’s recommendations after two years.
“We know that people on the ground and grassroots organizations and advocates and the people, we have to do the work ourselves. We’re realizing that every day,” Harpe said.
There are a growing number of settlers who are sympathetic to the cause and want to help in whatever capacity they can, she added.
“It’s important that the people with decision-making power know that the people care about change,” said Harpe.