photo courtesy of Jen Castro on Flickr
By Kristi Alexandra
For most, February 14th marks a day of gift-giving, overpriced roses, and anxiety about an upcoming date-or lack thereof. For the past 26 years, the date has held quite a different significance for those living on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
The Annual Women’s Memorial March is held on Valentine’s Day to honour the memory of all women from the Downtown Eastside who have died or disappeared due to physical, mental, and emotional violence.
In its 26th year, the march aims to raise awareness about the violence that vulnerable women in the Downtown Eastside face on a daily basis.
The march begins at noon on Main and Hastings, outside of the Carnegie Community Centre. Led by Indigenous women, the march travels through the DTES and stops at sites where women have passed or were last seen to offer prayers, medicines, and roses in remembrance.
In December, the Government of Canada announced the launch of a two-phase national inquiry to address the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“[The] inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls can only be designed after hearing from those directly affected. We are committed to an inclusive and respectful engagement process which incorporates the viewpoints and perspectives of those impacted by this national tragedy,” said justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould at the time.
For decades, Indigenous communities, as well as non-governmental and international organizations, urged the Canadian government to take action and lead a national inquiry. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, who swept the October federal election with a majority vote, made good on their promise to do so.
“The government’s current plan for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women should focus on three key issues: the overall status of Indigenous women in Canada, addressing systemic and male violence against Indigenous women, and safe and respectful participation of families and loved ones including families of the heart, frontline workers and Indigenous feminist organizations,” says Fay Blaney, co-chair of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee.
Although Indigenous women make up four per cent of Canada’s female population, 16 per cent of all women murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012 were Indigenous women. Indigenous women are three times more likely to report experiencing violence.
The February 14th Women’s Memorial March begins at noon on Main and Hastings, outside of the Carnegie Community Centre.
Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.