OTTAWA—A Toronto illustrator has started drawing portraits of missing or murdered aboriginal women and plans to send a new one to Prime Minister Stephen Harper every day to bring more attention to the issue.
“Let’s make it higher on his radar. Let’s make it higher on everyone’s radar,” Evan Munday, 34, said in a telephone interview after he launched the project on Twitter Monday.
Chosen largely at random from an online RCMP database, the subject of his first portrait posted to Twitter is missing woman Elaine Frieda Alook.
The mother of four was 35 years old when she was last seen outside Fort McMurray, Alta. on May 11, 2004, when news reports say her brother dropped her off at a shopping mall.
Drawing the portrait first in pencil and then going over it with ink, Munday scanned it into electronic format at a photocopying shop and then posted it to Twitter.
He plans to start the time-consuming process anew each day.
“I wanted it to be taking time and effort. It actually makes me think more about it. It makes me think more about both the issue and that these are people who have gone missing or who have died and think about their lives,” said Munday, who is also an author of books for children.
The RCMP estimated last year that nearly 1,200 aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in Canada in the past three decades.
“The grim thing is that I could do this and literally not run out of portraits to do for over three years, which is really kind of a staggering thought,” said Munday.
Munday said the idea grew out of a similar art project he did for the 25th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre last month, posting to Twitter his ink-drawn portraits of the 14 women killed in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989.
Munday said the “last straw” for him was when Harper said, in his year-end CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge, that a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women “isn’t really high on our radar.”
The Conservative government instead announced a $25-million “action plan” on the issue last fall, arguing it would rather focus on criminal justice and preventative measures than further study.
“The federal government seems more concerned that retail prices for books or toys are slightly higher in Canada than the fact that thousands of indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered. That’s higher on their radar,” said Munday.
“So, not knowing how to do anything besides sort of draw, I thought maybe I could use what I did in December to try to generate some action, to use it to some kind of end rather than just a tribute,” said Munday.
Munday noted that while Harper may never acknowledge the illustrations being directed to his official Twitter account, his efforts may help raise awareness among other Canadians.
“I think it’s possibly one of the most important issues facing Canada today so the main goal is to make it higher on his radar and if that makes it higher on other people’s radar, whether they be government officials, whether they be individuals who decide to work toward ending this or work toward getting an inquiry held, that is so much the better,” Munday said.