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Dear Tanya: A National Tragedy Hits Home

Dear Tanya, 
In 2009, you became a number that I wasn't counting. 
Your sister, Vanessa, was counting.
The hours, days and the years of this silence.
I heard during the hearing. 
I heard your story. 
I heard your human-ness. 
You are not dead to her.
You are not a number.
I'm counting. We're counting.
With Love, 

Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered in your community, in your province. Priya Andrade, one of the members of the Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee, knows this well. She recently attended the Halifax hearings of the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and was deeply affected by the testimony of the Brooks family, who spoke about the murder of their sister Tanya, a mother of 5 who was killed on Mother’s Day in 2009. Tanya’s body was found in the basement window well of this school, a short walk from Priya’s home, near the library where she brings her children.

Here are Priya’s words:

During the hearing, one of Tanya's sister's support people carried an infant girl wearing a red dress. At the end of the hearing, while they were playing 'Porchlight' by the Inuk duo Twin Flames (the song is a commemoration of MMIWG), Vanessa handed the baby to the commissioner. It was so powerful. I wondered about my community. I wondered: if there were 1200 missing East Indians in Canada, would we continue to be idle?

I felt compelled to write a letter to Tanya.

I felt compelled to write a letter to Tanya (see above). I'm still processing the hearings. I've attached the picture of the school's trench area where she was found down below. I wore my East Indian red 'dress' to show solidarity with these women and girls that I remember, since the REDress project has honoured these women and girls with their installations across the country. The Brooks' hearing also made me wonder: could I become a statistic as well?

Will you pray with us for the Brooks family and other Indigenous families affected by the death or disappearance of loved ones?

Creator God, it’s hard to imagine the horrors these women and their families have gone through. We stagger under the weight of their testimonies. Give us strength to bear witness, Holy Spirit. Break our hearts open with their brave testimonies, so that we can’t help but do what we can in our own communities to draw attention to this national tragedy, celebrate the courage and resilience of Indigenous people, and find ways to build relationships of mutuality and respect between settler people and Indigenous people. In Christ’s strong name, we pray. Amen.

As the MMIWG inquiry continues, you can hold all affected in your prayers using this Month of Prayer guide from the Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee.



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