More than 200 people marched through downtown Calgary on Friday to honour more than 1,200 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
The Sister in Spirit Vigil has been organized each year by the Native Women’s Association of Canada ever since 2004.
Family and friends carried signs and held hands as they marched down Stephen Avenue, demanding government action on the ongoing crisis.
"This is a national crisis," said Staci Duchene, a member of the missing and murdered Indigenous women committee at the Awo Taan Healing Lodge. "If it were 400 or 4,000 non-Indigenous people there would be an outcry and there would be people rioting in the streets."
"Why don’t we do that with our missing and murdered Indigenous girls? Why don’t we?"
Duchene’s extended family includes her adopted niece Joey English who was killed and dismembered in Crescent Heights in 2014.
"Her killer only got 18 months for an actual dismemberment to a body and an indignity to a body," said Duchene. "My family is still affected by that."
The Sisters in Spirit vigil is one of more than a dozen marches happening across Alberta Friday, five months removed from the completion of a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. The final published report accounts for 231 calls for justice, all aimed at addressing the root causes of the disproportionate levels of violence Indigenous people face.
Organizers say they are looking forward to government action soon.
"We do not want these recommendations to be collecting dust on a shelf somewhere as just another government report, we would like to see action," said Josie Nepinak, executive director of the Awo Taan Healing Society Emergency Women’s Shelter.
For the first time, the Alberta government declared Sisters in Spirit Day, something Nepinak acknowledges is a step forward.
"The declaration today by the minister of Indigenous affairs gives us the public acknowledgement from the government level that yes, indigenous lives do matter."
The report’s recommendations that include transformative changes to justice, education and health care systems.