Event recap: Emmanuelle Walter launches Stolen Sisters

On September 30th we were very pleased to host Emmanuelle Walter as she launched Stolen Sisters, the new English translation of her acclaimed book Soeurs volées.

The event was a conversation between Walter and Métis filmmaker, educator, and media artist Michelle Smith, in which they discussed missing and murdered Indigenous women, the complexities of the issue, and how Canadian media has utterly failed to tell these stories.

It is, according to Smith, the issue "of greatest importance in this nation right now.” There can be no reconciliation as long as these murders continue, a fact Walter felt keenly when she read about the UN investigation—despite having lived in Canada for less than a year. The issue become an obsession for Walter, who was told that investigating it would be difficult. She found, however, that people were eager to share their stories, and eager to have them told properly.

The book tells the stories of two girls, Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, who went missing in 2008 in Maniwaki, Quebec at the ages of 16 and 17, respectively. Shannon wanted to become a nurse, and Maisy was going back to school to get her GED, and the book makes a point of sharing personal moments to give the reader a sense of these girls' humanity.

Smith and Walter were joined on stage by Widia Larivière, the cofounder of Idle No More Quebec, who was recently back from speaking at the United Nations. Their discussion touched on the victim-blaming technique of referring to these women as “at risk,” as if different choices would have kept them safe, and the radically different media attention missing white girls receive.

The discussion was a rich mix of personal stories and statistics, with a lengthy Q&A session with an incredibly knowledgeable audience. Different aspects of a complex and disastrous issue were explored, making clear the scope of the tragedy. There have been at least 2000 cases of missing women since 1980, and while Aboriginal women are still more likely to be killed by someone they know (a statistic that is true of all women), there are also much much more likely to be killed by a stranger.

As a final thought, they discussed ways people can help support ongoing activism, like going to Pow Wows and other Indigenous events (including the World Women's March in Trois Rivière on October 17) and, of course, supporting Indigenous women, and their organizations, before they go missing.

Thanks to everyone who came out and made the evening a fascinating and unforgettable one.

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