We joined thousands of other Vancouverites on Saturday in a rally to honour the 1,200 indigenous Canadian women who’ve been murdered or gone missing in the past few decades. The issue has been in the media a lot in the past year due to high-profile cases like Loretta Saunders, who was researching murdered aboriginal women when she herself was murdered; Rinelle Harper, a 16-year-old student who bravely called for government action after she was brutally attacked by two men and left for dead; and Marlene Bird, a Saskatchewan woman who lost her legs after being beaten, slashed, and set on fire in a parking lot. Vancouver’s aboriginal community, however, has been marching in commemoration of murdered women since 1991. Originally, the march was primarily family members of murdered women, and everyone marched in prayer or spent the afternoon discussing solutions. Now, it’s become more of a social thing, with many people outside the native community joining in to show support. Honouring the lives of the women lost is still first priority, though, which is why the event has stretched to be over five hours long. Community organizers mark every single spot downtown Vancouver where a woman has been killed and honours her life with a smudging ceremony. Every year, there are more stops to make.
Every year, there are more posters showing the faces of missing girls and dead women, more family members mourning an unimaginable loss, and more parents wondering what happened to their daughter. While these families mourn, our government has done virtually nothing to help. Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually felt it was appropriate to say on camera that the issue isn’t high on his radar, “to be honest.” Contact your local MP to let them know how unacceptable this is, and think carefully about who to vote for in the next election so these women may actually see some justice. How many more years will this march have to happen?
Emma’s covered this issue for VICE in the past. Read her stories on how Canada’s funding to stop violence against women has nothing to do with violence against women, and what the UN thinks of Canada’s treatment of its indigenous population.