Annual Women’s Memorial March honouring MMIWG2S+ takes place in Vancouver

Hundreds took part in the 33rd annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which honours Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The event takes place in cities across Canada each year.

By Charlie Carey, Kate Walker, and The Canadian Press

Hundreds of people walked through Vancouver Wednesday, to mark the 33rd annual Women’s Memorial march in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Held on Valentine’s Day, the march occurs in cities across Canada every year to raise awareness and remember MMIWG2S+.

Some travelled across the border to share their story Wednesday. Led by the youth this year, the march made its way through the Downtown Eastside, making stops and laying flowers where missing and murdered women and girls were last seen.

One woman participating in the march Wednesday said she has half a dozen relatives who have been added to the list of MMIWG2S+. She hopes their stories don’t get lost in a blur of statistics.

“I’d like the conversation to continue after today. I would like people to see us as equals, to see us as … like you. We’re all the same, we all bleed the same color blood,” said Rebecca Brass.

The march included a gathering of victims’ family members and feature speeches from activists, and culminated in a healing circle at Oppenheimer Park in the afternoon and a community feast in the evening. 

“I’m a family member of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people. I’m also a survivor of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. As an Indigenous woman, these are the hardships, these are the atrocities that we often are battling or healing from,” said Roxanne White.

“There’s women and girls that are suffering, and there’s women that were killed, and there’s girls that were killed and that can be in landfills right now. And there’s people out there who don’t even care to look,” added Sariah Jacobs-Greene, a march leader.

Organizers say the march was founded in 1992 after the murder of Cheryl Ann Joe, a shíshálh Nation woman who was found dead on Powell Street.

They say safety of women in the Downtown Eastside is still an issue and there’s hardly been any change – despite recommendations from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“We’re the voice of those that have went murdered and missing, because they can’t speak anymore. So we have to speak on their behalf and speak their names,” said Gertie Pierre, aunt of Cheryl Ann Joe.

“What we’re seeing is a criminal legal system and a broader society that has been all too comfortable in pushing Indigenous women and particularly women, to the margins. And to not recognize the kind of violence that has been baked in,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director, Battered Women’s Support Services.

In a statement, Shianne Ewenin, a women’s counsellor and manager of Indigenous programs at the BWSS, shares that the annual march is a personal one, as Indigenous women “feel the weight of systemic, racial and gender-based violence in our lives and in the lives of our relatives. The women who are missing and murdered are not just statistics, they are our sisters, cousins, aunties, mothers, friends, and beyond.”

“I march because our stolen sisters are never forgotten, they are loved and we keep their memories alive. I march to make sure that these injustices remain visible and to demand accountability from our governments and the systems that hold these structures of violence in place,” Ewenin shared.

“I march to prevent the continuation of violence to Indigenous women, girls and two spirit peoples. I march because the violence on Indigenous women’s bodies is directly connected to the violence on the land and this needs to end.”

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