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'The world will never forget what happened to my sister': Project remembers missing and murdered Indigenous women

It’s been 26 years since Mary Lou Smoke got a horrible phone calling telling her something had happened to her sister.

“I said, ‘I’ll never let the world forget what happened to my sister Debbie,’” said Smoke, whose sister was found dead in her room at Gerrard and Sherbourne in Toronto on July 29, 1997.

Debbie Ann Sloss-Clarke is one of more than 4,000 missing Indigenous women and children over the past 30 years.

“Each of them was a sister, daughter, mother, auntie, grandmother or friend to somebody,” said Smoke. “We are all human beings and everyone has to remember that.”

Now, they will be remembered through a new project by The Canadian Library.

“The Canadian library (TCL) is an art installation that was created to help start really important conversations and to share the true history of Canada,” said Shanta Sundarason, the founder of TCL.

A new project by The Canadian Library places the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women on the spine of books. (Brent Lale/CTV News London) While leading about the true history of Canada, Sundarason started to learn about what she said is a “lack of support from the government and law enforcement.”

“If a non-Indigenous person goes missing, within hours, they'll there'll be an alert for them, especially for a child,” said Sundarason

Now, she has created a way to immortalize all those who have been lost.

“We've gone to all the Indigenous businesses that we could find across Canada and purchase Indigenous fabrics for them and we've covered all the books,” Sundarason said.

She added, “Then we've placed the names of various missing and murdered Indigenous women with gold letters on the spines of the books. So the books basically represent that this person has a story and they will be remembered. Some of the books don’t have a name, and those represent those who have not been found.”

At the end of a ceremony at the London Public Library, Smoke was presented with her own book.

It has a bear on the cover to represent Bear Clan, and a raspberry covering to represent the Raspberry Moon — the month when her sister was killed.

A display of photos of Mary Lou Smoke and her sister Debbie Ann Sloss-Clarke, who was murdered in Toronto in 1997. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)It also has her sister’s name on the spine.

“This is going to have a special place in my house because I’ll be showing it to people and reading it,” said Smoke. “It really means a lot to me because I said I'll never let the world forget what happened to my sister Debbie and there she is.”

Spearheaded by Western University Libraries, the local initiative in London and Middlesex County includes a collaboration between eight libraries, each hosting their own micro galleries.

The locations include Western University’s Weldon Library, the FIMS Graduate Library at Western, London Public Library’s Central Library, Beryl Ivey Library at Brescia University College, Huron University College Library, Cardinal Carter Library at King's University College, Fanshawe College’s Learning Library Commons, and the Middlesex County Library’s Coldstream Branch.

The books will remain in those libraries until February, when they will be collaborated into a permanent art installation. Top Stories

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