Sisters in Spirit Day: Remembering and Reflecting

Poster for the Canadian Library Project

As many as 4,000 Indigenous women and girls are believed to have been killed or gone missing in Canada over the past 30 years. Since colonial times, Indigenous women have suffered severe gender-based violence and faced a higher risk of violent crimes due to hatred and racism. The homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls is roughly 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada. The true number of victims is unlikely ever to be known.

On October 4, Sisters in Spirit Day honours the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Gender Diverse People, supports grieving families, and creates opportunities for healing. Led by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and funded by Status of Women Canada, the Sister in Spirit initiative aims to research and document the statistics of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. Through heightened awareness and education the initiative aspires to influence policy.

What is The Canadian Library Project?

The Canadian Library (TCL) is a grassroots art installation and memorial to all Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls (MMIWG2S) and Children. The project aims to acknowledge the history and the wrongdoings that have occurred and are still occurring.

The goal is to cover 8,000 books in Indigenous fabric as a testament to the lives lost. Stories that have been gathered from all across Canada are published on the TCL website.

Vaughan Public Libraries is committed to building two Micro Galleries. These galleries will be featured prominently as a testament to MMIWG2S to spark awareness and dialogue. At a future date, Micro Galleries from across Canada will be combined into a massive art installation and placed in a major museum or gallery as a permanent art piece.

How Can I Make a Difference?

Photo of family attending VPL's Every Child Matters Crosswalk Unveiling at Civic Centre Resource Libraries
Family attends Every Child Matters Crosswalk Unveiling at Civic Centre Resource Library

Vaughan Public Libraries invites you to Makers With A Cause: Canadian Library Project. Together we will build a living art installation of books wrapped in Indigenous fabric. This memorial to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) will be featured at Civic Centre Resource Library and Pierre Berton Resource Library starting in Fall 2023.

This four-week series aimed at teens and older adults deepens our understanding of our country’s true history. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge the wrongdoing that has occurred, and provide a platform where the stories of MMIWG and children are shared. In so doing, we as a community raise awareness, foster empathy, develop new bonds and strengthen existing ones.

Norval Morrisseau (1932–2007), Thunderbird with Inner Spirit, c. 1978, acrylic on canvas, 208.3 x 127 cm, Purchase 1979, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1979.6
Norval Morrisseau (1932–2007), Thunderbird with Inner Spirit, c. 1978, acrylic on canvas, 208.3 x 127 cm, Purchase 1979, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1979.6

Teens are also invited to participate in the McMichael Art Challenge. This interactive pastel drawing challenge and poetry slam is inspired by the artwork of Indigenous Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau! Participants will develop a creative artist’s statement based on their artwork and share it with the group. Instructors will begin with an introduction to the visual language of the Woodlands school of painting as demonstrated through Morrisseau’s artwork.

Using large-scale reproductions, they will discuss line, shape, colour, and the rich tradition of Indigenous storytelling, highlighting the connection between the natural and spiritual world while encouraging participants to respond in their own creative way.

Following the artmaking challenge, participants will develop an artist’s statement and present their statement alongside their artwork. They will also write a short poem related to their work, to be featured in a poetry slam. The winning work will be awarded a special prize!

We invite you to join us at these important and meaningful events. You can further honour the lives of MMIWG2S by visiting the completed TCL galleries and the Every Child Matters crosswalk, recently unveiled at Civic Centre Resource Library. We hope these visual reminders of the past will help shape our present and future by encouraging a more respectful, inclusive and kinder society.

The City of Vaughan is also hosting a Sisters in Spirit Vigil on Wednesday, Oct. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the courtyard outside Vaughan City Hall (2141 Major Mackenzie Dr.). It is a day of somber reflection to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2-Spirit people in Canada. This outdoor public vigil will be led by Edebwed Ogichidaa Kwe, meaning “she who speaks the truth” (also known as Elder Valarie King), from the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. She will discuss the day’s history, enlighten the audience about its importance, and explain how residents can take meaningful steps. Community members of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to attend. 

To learn more, we invite you to explore VPL’s robust collection, including this selection of staff picks commemorating the Highway of Tears: