This painting is dedicated to the families of more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada as well as Sisters in Spirit who are fighting to make this issue a priority in the political, social and judicial milieu. It is primarily intended to encapsulate their battle for remembrance and recognition of the disappearance and death of their loved ones in the face of discrimination and overwhelming indifference by the police and government in Canada.
The names and dates of disappearance and/or death of about 35 Aboriginal women have been included in the painting to not only ensure that they are remembered but also to represent them as subjects, as human beings, as people who are loved and missed. They are literally embodied in the primary subject of the painting (in her hair) and metaphorically in her grief.
Although the number of names included in the painting does not begin to approach the estimated figure, these cases, dating back to the mid 1960s, represent the state of most cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women- unsolved and/or pending investigation. This can be attributed, in great part, to discrimination and indifference on the part of the police and the government and their push to silence all those who advocate for these women. The maple leaf resting heavily on the mouth of the main subject of the painting represents recent efforts of the Harper government to silence Sisters in Spirit by threatening a withdrawal of funding unless the latter dispose of their database, refrain from using government funds for research and policy and rename the organization “Evidence and Action.”
Grief, unrelenting and encumbered by a lack of justice, is portrayed in the harebells and snowdrops that intersperse the names of our stolen sisters. Harebells have historically symbolized grief. Ironically, these flowers of grief are native to British Columbia- home to the infamous “Highway of Tears”. Snowdrops, which also grow in BC, symbolize death as they grow close to the ground and thus close to the buried. Interestingly, snowdrops also symbolize hope, perhaps an indication of the strength and courage of the families and allies of missing and murdered Aboriginal women who will continue to fight for justice.