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Walk to honour missing and murdered women and girls set for next month

Sisters in Spirit Vigil helps raise awareness


The second Whistler's Sisters in Spirit Vigil is scheduled for Oct. 4 and local organizer Linda Epp said that as a First Nations woman, the day is an effort to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

"I have to bring awareness and this has to keep going," she said. "I've registered (the walk) with the Native Women's Association of Canada — and I want to see more support from here." The national Sisters in Spirit Vigil has taken place for the past decade but has only reached Whistler in the past couple of years.

Epp said she is working on getting red dresses hung at several locations within Whistler. The red dress is the symbol for an aboriginal woman, or girl, who's gone missing or who has been murdered.

Epp said that for last year's walk she invited Lorimer Shenher, author of That Lonely Section of Hell: The Botched Investigation of a Serial Killer Who Almost Got Away. Shenher was the first Vancouver Police Department's detective assigned to the investigation into the case of missing Vancouver-area women. Robert Pickton in 2007 was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder after he was initially charged in connection to the deaths of 26 women.

"I had Lorimer come up and showcase his book," said Epp, who is a Sechelt Nation member.

"There are Lil'wat Nation members who've lost family members... their DNA was found on the Pickton farm," she said, adding that she knows first-hand the injustices that Indigenous women face.

"I'm a local, and I'm First Nation, so I've been subjected to a lot in my life. I was one of those who was taken away from my family, not raised in my culture, adopted into a German Mennonite family — so I advocate on behalf of First Nations because I can," she said.

"And I live in Whistler and the Lil'wat Nation is so close. A lot of First Nations people have a hard time vocalizing things and this is what I am here to do. Whistler, being a resort town — people still need to understand that there are members who have lost family. They're still hurting. That's why I advocate, that's what drives me."

Epp said last year's walk drew about 100 people who were onhand for readings, for the Women's Warrior Song, and the walk to the Olympic Plaza. The walk begins at 11 a.m. at the welcome Totem Pole in the village near the Shoppers Drug Mart. The walk will finish at the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre.

"This is right in your backyard — just a few kilometres down the road," she said. "This is real life and this is happening and families have been affected. It's a hard story."