STORIES OF LOSS SHARED AT VIGIL
Hundreds take part in gathering to pay respects to missing murdered Indigenous people
Somer Grandbois is setting the record straight about her brother Paul Grandbois, who was slain in January 2015.
“My brother wasn’t just another native, wasn’t just another drunk,” the 39-yearold said. “He was a human just like anyone else. He was married, he had three kids and for whatever reason didn’t make it home that night.”
Paul Murray Grandbois, 36, was found near 25 Avenue and 120 Street around 6:40 a.m. on Jan. 21, 2015. Somer Grandbois said she and her family are still waiting for answers.
“It’s not that it happened a long time ago, it’s that somebody was taken from you abruptly,” she said. “When someone is here one day and in the next hour gone, that’s a whole different kind of trauma.”
Grandbois shared her story of loss during the Sisters in Spirit Vigil in Edmonton on Friday where hundreds gathered at the Boyle Street Plaza to pay respects to missing and murdered Indigenous people. Similar events were held across the province and Canada.
Grandbois said these kinds of events help to bring the community together.
“(It) lets people know they are not alone,” she added. “That’s the biggest thing.”
The vigil follows months after the final report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The two-volume report, comprised of testimony from more than 2,380 family members, survivors of violence and experts, calls for transformative legal and social changes.
Among the calls for change include establishing a national Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson and a national Indigenous and human rights tribunal and providing long-term funding for education and awareness programs related to violence prevention.
Rachelle Venne, CEO of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, said the report offers a roadmap to change.
With the federal election right around the corner, she said whoever forms government will have to be held accountable.
“We’ve had a lot of talk and a lot of things they said they were going to change that haven’t changed,” she said. “There has been some progress here and there but the significant change we need hasn’t happened. We’re hoping that every government, every media outlet, every institution in Canada makes the changes that are necessary.”
One of the changes Venne would like to see is improvements in tracking how many murdered and missing Indigenous people there are. She said there was a big push to get that information but the process has now stalled.
Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson and Status of Women Minister Leela Sharon Aheer attended the vigil to offer the province’s support.
Wilson said the UCP is the first Alberta government to declare Sisters in Spirit Day in honour of the memory of Indigenous women and girls who are missing or have been murdered.
“Community vigils are held across Alberta and Canada giving families and loved ones a way to speak out for their daughters, mothers, nieces, aunts, sisters and grandmothers, whose voices have been silenced,” he said in a news release.
Somer Grandbois speaks about her brother Paul Grandbois, who was slain in 2015, during the Sisters in Spirit Vigil at Boyle Street Plaza on Friday.