| Sep 11, 2008

Sept 11, 2008 - Walk4Justice

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Feature Article - September 11, 2008 Walk4justice stops in Sharbot LakeBy Jeff Green

Bernie Williams recieves a Camp Oconto paddle

A group of 20 First Nations people, most of them from BC, and many who have lost female relatives to violence, spent the night in Sharbot Lake on Tuesday after walking to the village from Kingston.

They are on their way to Ottawa, and will be holding a rally on Parliament Hill on September 15 to mark the end of a three-month odyssey that started in Vancouver on June 21.

“It was Gladys [Radek] who had the vision, and Bernie [Williams] who told her to put it into action,” recalled one of the group’s spokespersons, Renee Pratt. “It is all about honouring the 3,000 women who have gone missing from across Canada.”

Renee Pratt, who is originally from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan but now lives in Maple Ridge, BC, lost a sister in-law to violence.

Although it is a group of Aboriginal men and women, grandmothers and babies (the oldest is 74 and the youngest is 2) who are doing the walk, they are marking the loss of all women to violence in Canada, and they received support from all the communities as they have crossed the country.

The group camped out most nights on their journey, before giving away all their camping gear to the children of the Six Nations Reserve on the Gand River.

“Everywhere we went people came up to us with their stories, so many tragic stories,” said Nicole Tait, another of the young women making the walk, as we stood in the cool of a pre-autumn evening at the Oso Hall after a potluck supper was finished. “But you should really talk to Bernie over there. She is an elder and a leader.”

“You talk to those two,” Bernie called over, “They know what’s going on.”

Aside from pointing to events that have taken place, to women that have been lost, either on the Highway of Tears in Northern BC where 18 girls and women have gone missing over the past 30 years, or mass murderer Robert Picton’s victims, or victims from Vancouver’s lower east side, Nicole Tait and Renee Pratt have a lot to say about what should happen in Canada now.

“There needs to be a change in the justice system,” said Renee Pratt. “The justice system is too lenient on people who can’t be treated. They get out of prison and then they harm our women and young children again.”

“There needs to be an inquiry into what’s been going on. Women are the life givers,” said Nicole Tait, “we need to respect them. If we can’t care for the life givers, what will be left?”

With the federal election underway, which is something the walk4justice could not have known would happen, they have been informed that politicians will not be able to greet them at Parliament Hill as they had hoped, but they are hoping that as many people as possible will come to support them between 9 am and 4 pm, when they will mark the end of their rally and deposit their on-line petition; www.petitiononline.com/glradek/petition.html.

The visit to Sharbot Lake included food, drumming by the Women’s Drumming Circle, the presentation of a hand-made paddle to Bernie Williams by Central Frontenac Mayor Janet Gutowski, and a night’s sleep at the Maples Cottages for the tired crew.

The event in Sharbot Lake was organized on short notice by the Katarokwi Native Friendship Centre, Danka Brewer, and Janet Gutowski.

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