Hun­dreds take part in gath­er­ing to pay re­spects to miss­ing mur­dered In­dige­nous peo­ple

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Jeff Labine @jef­flabine

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.

Postmedia ian KUCERAK/

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.

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