There was some powerful and emotional testimony this morning as families of murdered and missing Aboriginal women shared their stories at a national gathering at Carleton University in Ottawa.
It is billed as the “Peoples Gathering” and it is being held in conjunction with a national roundtable on missing and murdered Indigenous women on Parliament Hill.
CJ Julian worked as a prostitute on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the early 90’s. She turned to drugs and the streets after her sister went missing. It almost cost her her life.
“And I was driven far out of town, and it was a cow farm I thought I was at,” she said. “I ran away from there, not knowing if I was going to live or die.”
It was not a cow farm, it was the infamous pig farm where Robert Picton murdered more than 20 Vancouver prostitutes. Among them was her sister and many of Julian’s friends.
Julian was speaking this morning at the “Peoples Gathering”. She explained how her life tumbled after her sister went missing in the early 90’s. Julian says she says she ended up working the streets and turned to drugs to help ease her pain. She says she felt alone and hopeless.
“Shame on Canada. Each and every one of you are Canadian and I hope that this testimony I am sharing will help us make changes,” she said.
Julian has turned her life around. She is now clean and sober, but still works the streets of Vancouver’s east side — this time, to help those trapped in a life of drugs, prostitution and self-destruction.
“Even if they are drug-addicted or alcoholic or Native or non-Native, it doesn’t matter — they need to be loved,” she sobbed. “It’s a great honour to be able to work with them and show them I care.”
Julian says the problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a Canadian problem that will require a collective effort.
She hopes her story and the story of thousands of others will motivate the federal government to hold a national inquiry into the issue.