A woman whose fury about her daughter’s homework assignment about residential schools drew national headlines last fall is leading a solidarity march this weekend in Abbotsford to draw attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) in Canada.
Krista Macinnis is organizing the local event as part of a national endeavour called MMIW Takes Back Canada.
The Abbotsford event starts at noon on Saturday, March 13 at Mill Lake Park (Bourquin Crescent entrance).
Macinnis said participants are encouraged to wear red – the symbolic colour used to bring awareness to the issue of MMIW – and to bring drums. The event will be socially distanced.
Macinnis said she and others are fed up with the issue of MMIW not being a priority with the government.
This weekend’s walk was triggered by the murder of 28-year-old Jana Williams, whose remains were found March 4 on the edge of the Red River in Winnipeg.
Macinnis said the family, who is from the Hollow Water First Nation, has revealed that Williams was six months pregnant and her body was found stuffed in a suitcase.
Macinnis also points to the 2014 murder of Tina Fontaine, 15, who was from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. Her body was found wrapped in plastic and a duvet cover in the Red River.
“How many more mothers need to pull their babies out of ditches, suitcases, garbage bags, rivers before this becomes a priority?” Macinnis asked in a TikTok video.
“Could you imagine finding your child like that? Nothing about this is right or OK. No more stolen sisters!”
Macinnis said there needs to be more awareness and acknowledgement, particularly from police and government, that Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to go missing than non-Indigenous women and that they are being murdered.
She said the march this weekend is a way for people to “stand in solidarity with our stolen sisters.”
Macinnis drew national attention last November when she spoke out about her daughter, who is in Grade 6 at W.A. Fraser Middle School, receiving a homework assignment to list five positive stories about residential schools.
Macinnis went public with the issue, and this resulted in an apology from the Abbotsford school district and the school principal, as well as from the teacher involved.
Macinnis said she has no hard feelings toward the teacher.
“I think she’s a very delightful person. Her and I were able to reconcile. She’s great, and she has gone above and beyond to educate herself about these issues now. For her, this really was racism fueled by ignorance,” she said.
Macinnis said the deeper problem lies with the Ministry of Education, which she said “has dropped the ball on properly educating our past generations on the truth about Canada and the genocide of the First Nations people and residential schools.”
“Because of that, we have so many generations … that don’t know what residential schools are, when they’re in their own backyard.”
Macinnis said the teacher came up with the assignment from ministry curriculum posted online, but, as far as she knows, nothing has been done to remove or adapt the information.
“There was no actual recognition from the Ministry of Education that, hey, yes, we are outdated in our curriculum and in our practices, and we need to do a better job of educating our educators about residential schools and with being gentle while teaching these things.”
Anyone who wants more information about this weekend’s walk or who is interested in other Indigenous issues can contact Macinnis at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also posts regularly on TikTok at lucid_cupid143.