Churches toll bells for missing, murdered aboriginal women

Local Anglican churches to toll bells 1,181 times to remember the aboriginal women who went missing or were murdered between 1980-2012.

Bells at Anglican churches around Victoria will ring and echo through the downtown core to remember the more than 1,000 aboriginal women who have gone missing or murdered between 1980 and 2012.

The Christ Church Cathedral and St. John the Divine Anglican Church are participating in 22 days of prayer, marking the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report that addressed the troubled legacy of Indian Residential Schools in the country.

Churches will toll their bells at 2 p.m. for one hour, or the time it takes to ring it 1,181 times — one ring for each of the aboriginal women who have gone missing or murdered over a 32-year period.

Rev. Alastair McCollum with the St. John the Divine Anglican Church, said the event will bring much-needed attention to a sensitive topic.

“It’s a sign of respect, respect for those women who have gone missing or have been murdered. It’s also a way of drawing attention to the on-going desire that we have as the church to build up our relationship with First Nations, friendships that have obviously not been easy,” said McCollum.

“There’s a lot that we are saying sorry for and we want healing to be a part of our relationship with First Nations.”

The bells first rang on Wednesday (June 3) and will ring again for an hour on June 10 and 17.

“What we’re hoping to achieve as a participant in the ringing of the bells in memory of murdered and missing aboriginal women is to encourage the federal government to initiate an inquiry into these individuals’ deaths and disappearances,” said Janet Davies, parish administrator with Christ Church Cathedral.

The event comes in response to a landmark report that was released earlier this week from the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission documenting the treatment of native children at residential schools in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The 388-page report, headed by Justice Murray Sinclair called the treatment “cultural genocide.” The report includes 94 recommendations such as launching a national inquiry to investigate the violence and its relationship to the “intergenerational legacy of residential schools,” and an annual report and action on the overrepresentation of aboriginal children in the child welfare system.

More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada and an estimated 150,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit students passed through the system.