News / Winnipeg

Manitobans rally for missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys

Laura Lafrance, who organized a rally to honour missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys, said 71 per cent of murdered indigenous Canadians were male.

Louise Peter (left) and Hilda Atkinson (right) remember Sheldon Atkinson, who was murdered in 2009 at age 32. Sherelyn Hayden (back) holds a photo of her son Hyde Stevens, who was murdered in 2015 at age 14.

Keila DePape/ For Metro

Louise Peter (left) and Hilda Atkinson (right) remember Sheldon Atkinson, who was murdered in 2009 at age 32. Sherelyn Hayden (back) holds a photo of her son Hyde Stevens, who was murdered in 2015 at age 14.

While many families gifted neckties and golf balls on Father’s Day Sunday, others clutched photographs and sage at a vigil for lost loved ones.

At the Manitoba Legislature, Laura Lafrance spoke to a crowd of about 20 on an issue she said “we can’t be afraid to talk about”—missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys.

Although a high-profile national inquiry is underway for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.(MMIWG), Lafrance believes the conversation to date has mostly missed how many males are missing or murdered.

Referencing Statistics Canada data gathered between 1982 and 2011, Lafrance said 71 per cent of murdered indigenous Canadians were male.

“I think a lot of men are demonized, their emotions are neglected, and that causes a lot of hurt,” said Lafrance, adding there’s “no question” that men should be included in the National Inquiry into MMIWG.

She’s not alone in that opinion; In December, advocacy groups met with federal officials in an attempt to expand the inquiry’s mandate to include men and boys.

In response, inquiry commissioners invited families of men and boys to testify at court hearings, which began in the spring.

In an interview with Metro at the vigil, NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine said issues facing Indigenous men and women “are fundamentally connected,” but that Indigenous women have rallied for decades for their own inquiry and face “unique circumstances and context.”

Still, “that doesn’t mean to say there is not opportunities to start doing the research in respect of men and boys,” said Fontaine.

Without a specific look at that side of the issue, Stats Canada data does show the rate of homicide for Indigenous men was seven times that of non-Aboriginal males in 2015.

But those numbers only begin to tell stories those who were at Sunday’s vigil know first-hand.

Attendee Sherelyn Hayden held a photograph of a teenage boy, smiling in what looks like a school portrait.

“I’ve never been to a vigil before,” said Hayden, affirming Lafrance’s goal to start a new conversation.

Lafrance knows bringing attention to the plight of Indigenous men and boys is a journey that, much like the Inquiry for Indigenous women and girls, could take decades to attain.

But she believes the first step in that journey is to “keep talking about it, advocate, come out to events like this to show your support.”

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