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Recipient hopes to bring further awareness to cause through award

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor EDMONTON







A Daughter of the Year award for April Wiberg is fitting for the cause she has been recognized for: remembering lost daughters through the Stolen Sisters Awareness Movement.

Wiberg organized the first Stolen Sisters Awareness Walk in 2007. Since then, her organization has worked in partnership with local Edmonton groups and in conjunction with the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters-in-Spirit vigil to raise awareness of Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or gone missing.

“It’s really about working together as a community otherwise this sort of event couldn’t happen. If I could have accepted the award on behalf of everybody I worked with over the years, I would have,” said Wiberg. She dedicated the award to murdered and missing women and vulnerable women.

Wiberg was nominated by Paula Kirman.

“April displays incredible leadership skills and passion. Her efforts with the Stolen Sisters Awareness Walk are helping to bring attention to a very serious issue. She is not just honouring the memories of women who are missing and murdered, but making this issue unavoidable to people beyond the Aboriginal community: to the government, to law enforcement, and to concerned citizens. I nominated her so that her hard work can be recognized in a tangible way,” said Kirman.

Kirman was also nominated for the award for her activism work and received an honourable mention.

“The nomination even was a huge surprise and I’m truly honoured to even be considered as a nominee,” said Wiberg. “I was really honoured to receive that.”

Wiberg, who is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, was the only Indigenous woman of the 10 to win the second annual award. The winners were selected by a jury of women, with nominations received from the public.

“The inspirational examples of the Daughters of the Year demonstrate why the goal of Daughters Day to ensure an end to all discrimination and abuse of daughters is so important,” said Jim Gurnett, Daughters Day project coordinator. Daughters Day was celebrated Aug. 24.

Last year, Wiberg, along with Sisters-in-Spirits march organizers Amanda Gould and Gloria Newapetung, were recognized with Good Relations awards by the Institute for Advancement of Aboriginal Women along with the Aboriginal Commission for Human Rights and Justice.

Through the Stolen Sisters Awareness Movement, Wiberg was instrumental in 2011 in the creation of Okôsikow (Angel) Way. This street, at 101 A Avenue between 97th street and 96th street in downtown Edmonton, honours women who have been the victims of crime. The movement to have one street named Angel Street in every capital city in the country was led by the Qimavvik Women’s Shelter in Iqaluit.

The Stolen Sisters Awareness Movement was recently named to Alberta’s RCMP Aboriginal Advisory Committee.

“We’re hoping we can give more of a grassroots perspective as a committee member,” she said. “We’re hoping to give a voice at a higher level of the justice circle.”

One aspect of missing and murdered women that Wiberg would like to see acknowledged and addressed by the RCMP is the role domestic human trafficking plays.

A national newspaper article recently highlighted a 2011 report titled Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota, and noted a link between Thunder Bay and Duluth, Minn. The report states “Native women (are) being trafficked to and from reservations and urban areas” and says that “92 per cent of women interviewed wanted to escape prostitution.”

“To see this issue now out in the mainstream news, is certainly going to help raise more awareness because we certainly think there’s a connection,” said Wiberg.

The seventh annual Stolen Sisters Awareness Walk will take place Oct. 6 at City Hall, in Edmonton.


Photo caption: April Wiberg waits with her daughter as Lewis Cardinal speaks and Jodi Abbott, President and CEO of Norquest College, makes the presentation.