VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
A voice for missing women
By Monisha Martins
September 26 2007
Barely blinking her almond-shaped eyes, Sandra Gagnon reveals how time has whittled down her family.
Of 10 siblings who grew up in the Nimpkish First Nation near the misty coves of Alert Bay, just three are left.
The one she misses most, her sister Janet Henry, hasn't been seen in 10 years.
One of 62 women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Henry's face still remains on a "Missing Women" poster.
Money in her bank account hasn't been withdrawn since June 1997.
"Sometimes I think they'll never find her. I just hope and pray one day we will have answers."
At 58, Gagnon is ready for a new start.
Losing her parents, her son and four sisters over the past decade, and her brother Lance just last year, have taken their toll.
There were times when she didn't want to live anymore.
A deep dimple dots Gagnon's left cheek when she smiles.
Her long, once long and pin-straight, is cut shorter now, framing her high cheeks in a pretty bob.
She says she's taken time to heal and sought help.
"I have positive things in my life," she says.
In a cozy apartment in downtown Maple Ridge, Gagnon points to a stand filled with photographs.
A chubby face surrounded by a feathered head-dress smiles through the frame.
Gagnon says she lives for the happy little boy - Damian, her nine-year-old grandson who also has a deep dimple on the side of his cheek.
"It has taken a long time to be where I'm at. No one is going to pull me down again."
Gagnon will share Janet's story at a Sisters in Spirit vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Oct. 4.
Launched by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the second annual vigil focuses attention on alarmingly high rates of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.
The association believes an estimated 500 women from First Nations across the country have disappeared.
"No one pays attention to it," says Gagnon.
She hopes her story will help families whose sisters or daughters are missing. She says she wants to be their voice.
"I am more at peace with my life," Gagnon says.
"I have a purpose."• A Sisters in Spirit vigil will also be held in Vancouver for more information visit www.nwac-hq.org
Copyright © 2007
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