FREDERICTON (GNB) – Silent Witness silhouettes honouring two First Nation women who lost their lives because of gender-based violence were dedicated today.

The silhouettes commemorate the lives of Rowena Sharpe and Geraldine Paul, both from St. Mary’s First Nation, who were murdered by their partners in 1981 and 2012, respectively.

“The statistics on violence against women in our country and our province is staggering, and the situation for aboriginal women is even more devastating,” said deputy premier Stephen Horsman. “We must stand together to end violence against women in our communities. As a government, we are committed to addressing the significant issue of violence against aboriginal women and girls here in New Brunswick and to continue to support the work of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

The Silent Witness video project was led by the Fergusson Foundation in partnership with the Women’s Equality Branch, the Department of Justice and Public Safety, the Silent Witness Project, St. Mary’s First Nation and the families of Sharpe and Paul.

The provincial government, through the Women’s Equality Branch and the Department of Justice and Public Safety, contributed $20,000 to the Fergusson Foundation to undertake the project.

The event also featured a preview of a documentary about the journey the families and the community took to create the silhouettes of their loved ones. The video, created by RayneMaker Productions, will be used to raise awareness of domestic and intimate partner violence and homicide, and missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

"These Silent Witness silhouettes speak loudly of the need for the attention and co-ordination of government and community resources in a concerted, ongoing effort to prevent and eliminate violence against Indigenous women and girls,” said Fergusson Foundation president Tim McCluskey.

“There are too many Indigenous women and girls who are subjected to violence, both within and outside our communities,” said St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Allan Polchies Jr. “They become the missing and murdered Indigenous women that is a tragedy of our nations. We can and must work together on this issue to build a better future for the next generations.”

The Silent Witness Project is an exhibit of life-sized red silhouettes representing New Brunswick women who have died as a result of domestic violence. The goals of the project are to: remember women killed by a current or former spouse or partner; create awareness of the risk factors for intimate partner violence and domestic homicide; and promote action to end violence against women.

The provincial government has committed to addressing the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including working with partners to end violence against aboriginal women and girls. The New Brunswick plan focuses on prevention and improving access to services for victims and perpetrators by focusing on four priority areas: awareness, education and training; intervention and support; addressing sexual violence; and research and data collection.

Advancing women’s equality is an area of focus identified in the New Brunswick Family Plan framework. The report identifies five key steps to achieving that goal: recruiting more women to fill positions of influence, enhancing gender equality, enhancing pay equity, increasing access to services and support for victims of intimate partner violence and removing barriers to access and opportunities.