By Bronte Campbell
Sep. 23 saw Ryerson University’s Aboriginal faculty and students dressed up and ready to attend a charity gala focused on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Fashion for Passions: Honouring Our Stolen Sisters was held in the Governor’s Room at the Liberty Grand and was comprised of dinner, a performance by Canadian singer and actor Andrea Menard, auctions and a fashion show to raise money and awareness.
“It’s kind of a weird combination of fun gala and super serious content,” said Nadine Cuneo, a part-time third year politics and governance student at Ryerson and the financial director of the Indigenous Student Association.
Ryerson bought three tables for the faculty and students from Ryerson to attend the gala. Fashions for Passions was created to educate and encourage individuals and organizations to work towards the end of violence, trafficking and overall issues facing women and girls all over the world.
This year the priority of the gala was the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, with proceeds going toward the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, Sistering and VWAT Family Services.
“We have a national crisis on our hands,” said Pauline Phoi Thi Ho, an interim executive director of VWAT Family Services and speaker at the gala.
According to Phoi Thi Ho, Aboriginal women are 3.5 per cent more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women and 50 per cent of violent crimes against all Aboriginal people go un-prosecuted.
Regarding the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, Statistics Canada admits to being unable to generate figures.
“For a number of reasons, these disappearances and homicides have been difficult to quantify through official statistics,” reads the Statistics Canada website in a short three paragraph mention on the issue.
“Bullshit,” said Phoi Thi Ho about the lack of concrete numbers. “Governance response has been severely lacking,” she said, attributing the issue itself to the racist and sexist stereotypes surrounding Aboriginal women in Canada.
The issue has also now become a considerable part of the Oct. 19 federal election, with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Party head Justin Trudeau having both promised to inquire into the missing and murdered women if elected.
Phoi Thi Ho said Canada is currently “creating a community, a home that is a wreck” for the aboriginal girls and women in the country.
“(The gala is) addressing an issue the government continues to deny by not calling a national inquiry,” said Peter Alphonse, Aboriginal Admissions/Liaison Office from the Aboriginal Student Services (RASS), who was an attendee at the gala.
Ryerson guests also included Joanne Dallaire, traditional counselor and elder at RASS who started the event with a traditional song, and Cyndy Baskin, chair of the Ryerson Education Council and board member of the Native Women’s Resource Centre.