Thousands gathered on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for the 32nd Annual Women’s Memorial March
The streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside were a sea of movement as chants filled the air and signs were hoisted for Tuesday’s 32nd Annual Women’s Memorial March.
Those gathered marched in honor of the Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people who have died in downtown Eastside and across the province. The first march was held in 1992 to commemorate the life of a woman who was murdered on Powell Street.
“Increasing deaths of many women and people of mixed genders from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss,” the Women’s Memorial March committee said on its website.
“Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and trans people continue to be disproportionately missing or murdered with no action taken to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gender-based violence, poverty, racism or colonialism.”
During a ceremony at the march, two bald eagles flew overhead and the crowd cheered and applauded. One elder told CBC News that the bald eagles are messengers from the Creator and that seeing the birds feels like their ancestors are with them.
A march was also held in Terrace, BC to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“We heal together”
Among those marching in the crowd was Maggy Gisle, a Nisga’a woman living in Powell River on the Sunshine Coast.
She marched in honor of 64 friends and family who were missing or murdered, she says.
Gisle used to live in Downtown Eastside but moved away in 1998.
“I was scared right now because all my friends were missing and I knew eventually I would be,” said Gisle, who sang a dirge at the march.
“I come here and pray and spend time in prayer, remembering each of these women and thanking them for the time I have.”
Elsewhere in the crowd was Wesley Mitchell, who had traveled from Smithers, BC, about 230 miles west of Prince George. He marched in honor of two women, Jessica Patrick and Frances Brown.
Patrick went missing in September 2018 and her body was found 12 days later at a local ski slope northwest of Smithers.
Frances Brown, his aunt, went mushroom picking in Smithers in 2017 and never returned.
“Today we still don’t have justice,” Mitchell said.
“Someone out there knows what happened. We hope that someone will face this fear and speak up.”
Mitchell said the march filled him with connection and love and that he hoped one day his family would find answers.
“The way we heal is together,” he said.
More work to do: Province
In BC, Indigenous women and girls are nearly three times more likely to be subjected to domestic violence, murder or other violent crimes than non-Indigenous women, according to the province’s information.
In a statement, Prime Minister David Eby and several of his colleagues said violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people is an urgent problem.
“We all have a responsibility to come together on this day and every day to protect those most at risk of becoming victims of violence,” he said.
“We are aware that there is still much more to be done. We will continue to listen, take action and work with Indigenous Peoples to create a future where Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQ+ people and children are safe in every home, workplace and community in this province. “