Canada: Thousands Take Part in Annual Women’s Memorial March

An estimated 1,200 people participated in the 25th annual Women's Memorial March in Vancouver, BC.

An estimated 1,200 people participated in the 25th annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, BC, on Feb 14, 2015.  Photo: Vancouver Sun.

by Warrior Publications, Feb 14, 2015

Several thousand people participated in the annual Women’s Memorial March for missing and murdered women across the country on Feb 14, 2015.  The largest turnout was in Vancouver, BC, where over 1,200 took part in that city’s 25th annual march.  Over the past decade, numerous other towns and cities across the country have also begun organizing annual memorial marches.  According to official estimates, there have been over 1,000 Indigenous women murdered since 1980.  Below are some media reports on this year’s mobilization.

Women’s memorial march in Vancouver attracts hundreds

Supporters say it’s heartbreaking virtually nothing has been done in the event’s nearly 25 years

CBC News, Feb 14, 2015

Hundreds marched through downtown Vancouver Saturday to support calls for a national inquiry into 1,200 aboriginal women nationwide who have been murdered or are missing.

The memorial march that began in Vancouver nearly 25 years ago has since spread to cities across the country.

Gertrude Pierre whose niece Cheryl Ann Jo was murdered in 1992 has marched in nearly every one and was here again this year. It was Jo’s death that started the march nearly a quarter century ago.

Vancouver, BC, Feb 14, 2015.

Vancouver, BC, Feb 14, 2015.

Pierre says it’s heartbreaking that despite almost 25 years of marching in the streets, aboriginal women continue to be murdered.

As the marchers wond their way through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, they stopped for moments of silence near locations where women have been murdered.

Pierre and many others have been calling for a national public inquiry to look at the root causes of violence against women and to examine how aboriginal women are consistently slipping through the cracks.

Marches across the country for missing, murdered aboriginal women

Mural in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Mural in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Marlene Leung, CTV News, Feb 14, 2015

Residents across the country are participating in marches to call for justice for Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The marches have taken place every Valentine’s Day for the past several years.

This year, events are planned in such cities as Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon. Similar marches are also planned for parts of the U.S.

On the Facebook event page for the Vancouver march, organizers noted that the first Women’s Memorial March took place after the 1991 murder of a Coast Salish woman in downtown Vancouver.

Women's Memorial March in Victoria, BC, Feb 14, 2015.

Women’s Memorial March in Victoria, BC, Feb 14, 2015.  Source: Joe Akerman, Facebook.

“Twenty-five years later, the women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women,” the page said. “Indigenous women disproportionately continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal to no action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism.”

The Conservative government has been criticized for its refusal to launch an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Women's Memorial March in Toronto rallies outside police headquaters. Photo: Ange Sterritt, Facebook.

Women’s Memorial March in Toronto rallies outside police headquaters. Photo: Ange Sterritt, Facebook.

In a report released last May, the RCMP estimated about 1,200 aboriginal women and girls were murdered or went missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012. It said that while aboriginal women make up 4.3 per cent of the population, they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.

The Conservatives have said that they prefer that the issue be dealt with through the justice system, rather than through a national inquiry.

Women's Memorial March in Toronto, Feb 14, 2015.

Women’s Memorial March in Toronto, Feb 14, 2015.

At a news conference Saturday, Justice Minister Peter MacKay briefly touched on the issue, noting that the government was committed to improving the justice system, particularly the aboriginal justice system.

MacKay also announced the government was extending its support for the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, to include $11.1 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year for community-based aboriginal justice programs and initiatives.

“It is an unfortunate reality that aboriginal Canadians are over-represented in our criminal justice system, both as offenders and as victims, and there are many contributing factors that lead to that sad reality,” he said.

Body of aboriginal woman found in Calgary yard

The marches come as police in Calgary continue their investigation into a suspicious death in the city’s north-east end.

The body of 31-year-old Dawn Echoes Baptiste was discovered Thursday in Calgary’s Whitehorn neighbourhood. Baptiste had no fixed address, officers said.

MMIW stats 1Police said they received a call about the body Thursday afternoon, and Batpiste was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death has not yet been released.

Officers spent Thursday night canvassing the neighbourhood, and interviewed the person who called 911. They said they have no information on a possible motive or what sort of weapon, if any, was used.

Officers are now asking for the public’s help in identifying Baptiste’s activities in the weeks leading up to her death.

She is described as aboriginal, about 5’5″ tall, 135 pounds, with brown hair and blond highlights. At the time of her death, she was wearing a red hooded winter jacket, black sweatpants and tan-coloured work boots.

Anyone with information about the case is being asked to call police at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Winnipeg: Rally honours memories of MMIW

Hundreds of family and supporters of missing and murdered women gathered at the University of Winnipeg to honour their memories and to call for action.  CTV Winnipeg.

Hundreds of family and supporters of missing and murdered women gathered at the University of Winnipeg to honour their memories and to call for action. CTV Winnipeg.

Ben Miljure, CTV Winnipeg, Feb 14, 2015

Hundreds of Winnipegers braved the bitter cold Saturday to take part in a march in honour of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“It’s about justice. You cannot allow for such a number of people to be killed, murdered or go missing, without there being some action,” said Cyrl Keeper as he walked through the streets of downtown.

In the small community of Powerview, north west of Winnipeg, Thelma Favel, the woman who raised murdered teenager Tina Fontaine, read letters of support she has received since the girl’s body was discovered last August.

“We were really dreading Christmas, but the cards and letters and prayers that I’ve been receiving, it helped us through it,” said Favel.

Although she speaks to investigators every couple of weeks, Favel still doesn’t know how her neice died.

She learned recently police consulted with a special forensics lab in Austria, but says she has begun to lose hope the killer will ever be found.

“I have a feeling that Tina’s case is going to go unsolved,” she said.

Police confirmed to CTV News they have reached out to that lab in Austria and to another in the United States, but say they have not sent anything to be examined.

Favel also said that investigators told her they plan to hold another press conference sometime in March.

Police said they may reach out to the public again, but would not commit to a timeframe for that.

Favel credits Tina with sparking a renewed discussion on the issue of violence against indigenous women, saying that will be her lasting legacy.

Indeed, shortly after Tina’s death, more than 2,000 people took to the streets of Winnipeg, marching to a silent vigil to mourn the teenager.

“It affected all of us. It was something that struck a chord spiritually, emotionally, and physically for all of us,” said Nahanni Fontaine, a special advisor on aboriginal women’s issues for the Province of Manitoba.

Winnipegers were back in the street Saturday, determined not to let the issue fade.

“We do have a crisis here,” said Charlotte Boubard, a young women who has lost both a brother and sister to violence. “There’s definitely a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Posted on February 14, 2015, in Indigenous Women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Dolphin.

  2. Proud to see the solidarity in Canada concerning this issue. Women are a a powerful force, especially those who identify as indigenous. This force can be a direct threat to colonial institutions where our voice alone undermines the imperialistic agendas of the governments.

  1. Pingback: Canada: Thousands Take Part in Annual Women’s Memorial March | Ecocide Alert

  2. Pingback: Disposable bodies, disposable sisters: Cindy Gladue and [in]justice for the missing and murdered – emBody Sociology

  3. Pingback: Disposable bodies: Cindy Gladue and [in]justice for the missing and murdered – emBody Sociology

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