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'Keeping the memory and momentum going': Cape Breton highway signs draw attention to MMIWG


Some new highway signs are catching people's attention as they drive through We'koqma'q First Nation along Highway 105 in Cape Breton.

"It's a hardcore message, but it's something we need to look at,” said Barry Bernard, co-creator of the new signs.

The highway placards are meant to raise more awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The face on the signs — and of the message they send — is that of 16-year-old Aleah Young of Eskasoni First Nation.

"She won the pageant for Mi'kmaq Summer Games — she's the queen,” Bernard said. “She's also an amateur boxer for Red Tribe Boxing. We started working together and we came up with this sign."

At the Membertou Heritage Park, a smudging ceremony was held on Wednesday for one of the next signs that will go up.

Heritage Park general manager Jeff Ward says having a local face like Young's adorn them is a powerful reminder of the women and girls not very different from her who never came home.

"There are so many that we could talk about, and to name the names. We have family members. I have family members,” Ward said.

Mi'kmaq educator Jarvis Googoo is from We'kok'maq, where the signs are now up.

He says this helps keep the issue from being forgotten, after the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls that wrapped up in 2019.

"The way I see it, it's kind of keeping the memory and momentum going,” Googoo said. "We don't just want to see a Royal Commission or an inquiry being done, and a study sits on a shelf collecting dust. We want action to continue."

Organizers say the plan is to try to eventually have the signs visible throughout Mi'kmaki.

"We hope to put one in Potlotek and Wagmatcook, and I'm working on it with the other communities like Eskasoni and Membertou,” Bernard said.

"I'd love to see this sign in Membertou, and all the communities,” Ward said. “Restigouche, Bouctouche, all the way."

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