VICTORIA – A handmade quilt honouring the memories of British Columbia’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is helping their loved ones heal.
The colourful patchwork quilt unveiled at the legislature Tuesday is made up of 90 blocks crafted by families who have lost mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts.
Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit said seeing the quilt for the first time took her breath away.
“There are way too many squares representing way too many of our families affected by this national tragedy,” Casimer said.
When people see the quilt, they’ll begin to get an idea of the magnitude of how many women and girls have gone missing or been murdered, she said.
Some of the colourful blocks are made up of victims’ clothing, blankets or possessions. Some simply state a name, while others call for justice. Most express love and longing for the women and girls.
The quilt was created at a three-day gathering for the families held in Prince George earlier this year.
Wanda Good, deputy chief of the Gitanyow First Nation, said it was a turning point for some of the families.
“For so many decades, we did our marches, we did our studies, we did our focus groups but we weren’t being heard. And this is one of the first times that we felt like we were being heard,” she said.
Creating the memorial quilt helped families to begin healing, Good said.
“Some people couldn’t verbalize the pain that they were feeling but were able to share it through their art.”
Good hopes the quilt will evoke happy memories, too, of the women who have been lost.
“May this quilt act as a reminder to all of us not just of the pain and the tragedy and the sorrow that the families have experienced, but all of the love as well that went into it,” she said.
Ensuring the safety of indigenous women and girls is one of the defining issues of our time, said Public Safety Minister Mike Morris.
“This quilt is a memorial to those who have been lost and a powerful reminder that we must work together to address violence and violence prevention,” he said.
The federal Liberal government has announced that an inquiry will be launched into missing and murdered indigenous women across the country, but details have yet to be released on the scope or structure.
The quilt will be on display at the provincial legislature through the spring and summer.