March 12, 2015
Dear Organizing Committee of the Stolen Sisters Memorial March,
After the Stolen Sisters Memorial March, it was brought to our attention by a member of your committee that our action of sending a collective member to take photos at the march caused harm.
While we cannot undo this action, we deeply and sincerely apologize to the organizing committee and any other Indigenous folks who were harmed by us taking photos at this memorial march. We fully recognize and take responsibility for the harm that was caused by this. The Women’s Centre collective recognizes and understands that these actions were inappropriate for the memorial march, especially if we were to use them in any way at our upcoming Women & Creative Activism Forum. We appreciate being called in by those who spoke out when they were hurt by our actions and we take these concerns very seriously.
We understand that, with or without consent, taking photos for our own use at the memorial march, which is of a grieving and healing nature, is a harmful and disrespectful action. We recognize the appropriative nature of our actions where we were planning to use such photos for our own event. We recognize how these actions are rooted in a colonial dynamic where the images and experiences of Indigenous peoples are co-opted for use by non-Indigenous people and used in inappropriate and problematic ways. With these actions, we recognize how we were reproducing colonial relations, which is something we need to be ever-vigilant of in our work as a feminist organization.
This letter is only the beginning for us, as we have a lot of reflection, learning, and change to do in our work and amongst ourselves at the Women’s Centre. We have begun discussing immediate changes that we need to make to how we participate in community events, specifically those centred around Indigenous lives and experiences.
In the future, before choosing to send representatives from our organization to community events we will bring the matter before our collective to thoroughly consider our motivations and any possible implications. If we are interested in sending a representative to an event, we will connect with the organizing committee and media representatives to seek guidance and consent for our potential actions before an event takes place.
We thank you for taking the time to read this. As we move forward, we understand that we need to build meaningful relationships of accountability and trust with community members such as yourselves, which is a much larger process that this letter alone cannot resolve.
The UVSS Women’s Centre Collective