The installation and awareness session on the art of missing and murdered indigenous peoples is striking, and that is the intention.
The exhibit, which opened at the Parkdale Cromdale Community League rink on Tuesday, is bathed in red light and features ceremonial sounds, symbols and fire.
The idea was initiated by Community League President Kevin Wong.
âMy partner and I were listening to the news, they were talking about the number of missing and murdered Indigenous people in Canada, and we felt we had to do something locally,â he said.
“We were trying to figure out what we can do to raise awareness and that’s what we came up with.”
Wong partnered with the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society to create the installation. Executive Director Cheryl Whiskeyjack was stunned when Wong approached her with the idea.
âWhen I first met him I had no idea what it was,â she said. “He’s an engineer, he was able to make a really impressive computer rendering of this screen that really made me feel so much, just to see what he imagined.”
Whiskeyjack was moved that someone like Wong wanted to create the exhibit.
âBeing approached in this way by a member of the non-Indigenous community who thinks this is an important issue to bring forward has really meant a lot to me and to the people I have been able to bring home. She said.
Whiskeyjack has recruited people who are familiar with the issues and believe the end result sends a strong message.
âFirst of all, we don’t want women to go missing,â she said. “When they do, we want this problem taken as seriously as it would be if someone else was missing, and it’s something we haven’t seen.”
Wong also included photos of victims as part of the installation.
âBehind every photo that is displayed here is the heartbreaking story of a family still awaiting the return of their loved one, or who sees their loved one being picked up from a field or a river,â said he declared.
“This is a tragedy in Canada and we have to do something. We have to keep making noise and we have to keep the public informed.”
Whiskeyjack believes this attitude, along with a number of other developments, is driving progress.
âI think we’re starting to see a lot more interest from ordinary Canadians in some of the issues we face as aboriginal people,â she said.
Whiskeyjack believes the creation of the National Truth and Reconciliation Day and the recent discovery of anonymous graves in residential schools have drawn attention to the situation.
“All of these things woke people up to a story that they might have heard a little bit about but are really interested in hearing a lot more now, now that they know it.”
The installation will be open to the public until October 17.