Canada rallies to remember missing and murdered aboriginal women

Eighth Annual Women's Memorial March in  Winnipeg  (Photo: Red Power Media)

Eighth Annual Women’s Memorial March in Winnipeg. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

Hundreds of aboriginal women and girls have gone missing or been murdered across Canada.

On February 14th annual marches were held across the country to remember the missing and murdered.

Hundreds gathered in Vancouver, Winnipeg and other cities. Over 400 people marched in Toronto in what’s known as the Strawberry Ceremony, named after the fruit which has become a symbol for aboriginal female victims of violence. Many attendees brought strawberries to mark the 10th annual march.

In Montreal thousands marched.

The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family.

Twenty five years later, the women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women.

Betsy Bruyere, an indigenous woman in Vancouver, has attended the marches for more than a decade.

“I was kind of depressed,” she says. “It just doesn’t stop and it looks like it’s getting worse — the situation, the crisis, the invisible war against indigenous women. They’re trying to kill us, I’m pretty sure of it.”

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

Eighth Annual Women’s Memorial March in Winnipeg. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

Eighth Annual Women’s Memorial March in Winnipeg. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

About 300 people gathered at the eighth annual women’s memorial march outside the University of Winnipeg to call attention to missing and murdered indigenous women.

The rally later moved inside the U of W. Bulman Centre, where many listened to speakers.

Among those in attendance for part of the time were Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Premier Greg Selinger.

Inside the U of W. Bulman Centre, where the aroma of burning sage filled the room, Nahanni Fontaine said “families of victims must continue to put pressure on police and the justice system to find missing women or find those responsible for their deaths,” adding there is a misperception in society that many of the missing and murdered came from families where they weren’t loved and supported.

Eighth Annual Women's Memorial March in Winnipeg  (Photo: Red Power Media)

Mayor Brian Bowman at U of W. Bulman Centre. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

“There’s concern from families that people are speaking on their behalf” without first consulting them, said Fontaine, special adviser to the province on indigenous women’s issues.

Fontaine said Manitoba should draft the first protocol in Canada on how to engage with families of victims of violence. Fontaine said “it seems odd” to have to put something in writing, “But it’s needed.”

Some rallies across the country included displays of the growing anger and frustration around such issues as an inquiry and the Harper government’s lack of action.

Creeative Native Traverse in Winnipeg, wearing a t-shirt she designed. (Photo: Red Power Media)

Creeative Native Traverse in Winnipeg, wearing a t-shirt she designed. Feb 14th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

Last May, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reported that 1,017, aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012. Another 108 are missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952.

Rights groups have long been demanding that law enforcement agencies do more to prevent and solve crimes directed at aboriginal women and girls. They have also started to put increasing pressure on the federal government to open an inquiry into the hundreds of missing or murdered cases.

Demonstrators also held a national day of action on February 13th called #ShutDownCanada, where hundreds of activists used various forms of civil disobedience to temporarily close down major roads, railways and other public infrastructure. The goal was to put pressure on the Harper government and demand an inquiry. In Winnipeg First Nations set up a blockade on portage avenue near the west perimeter highway.

#ShutDownCanada Winnipeg. (Photo: Red Power Media)

#ShutDownCanada Winnipeg, blockade at the west perimeter. Feb 13th, 2015. (Photo: Red Power Media)

 

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