Valentine’s march honours missing women

Annual event seeks to raise awareness on violence and abuse against aboriginal women

For 24 years, the march has been continuing across the country; with signs reading ‘Bring our Sisters Home’ and ‘No More Stolen Sisters,’ they proclaimed the continuing remembrance and determination to bring to light Canada’s epidemic of murdered and disappeared aboriginal women.

Originally started in 1991 in Vancouver, the march has since spread across Canada and highlighted the belief of activists that the government and police don’t afford it the necessary attention. The pressure for a government-run public inquiry has yielded nothing, with the Harper government so far refusing to budge. It was Montreal’s sixth annual event, which started off in Cabot Square and ended in Phillip’s Square near McGill.

According to official records, nearly 1,200 aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered since 1980 with 164 missing cases, and 1,017 murders. An RCMP report into the statistics said that while there were broad similarities to female homicide statistics nationwide, the rate of risk for First Nations women was much higher than the median. Other statistics show that aboriginal women, who account for just four per cent of the female population, make up 60 per cent of all Canadian women who’ve been murdered since 1980.

Marching down the blocks on a frigid February day, the hope on everybody’s mind was that this wouldn’t begin and end as a mere moment in time, as one march amongst a sequence. This sentiment was summed up by one member of the Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women group, a grassroots organization working to educate the public and eliminate violence against aboriginal women.

“I can’t say for sure that we meet one another on a common ground of understanding, but it’s clear to me that there’s something that sustains us, there’s something that compels us to continue navigating these hurdles as a collective. I don’t know why any of you are here, I don’t know for whom you’re here, My hope is … we can walk together today, and we can support one another today, that we can turn towards one another and make a space for each of us in our grief and in our anger, and in our pain, and to allow all of that to co-exist as we walk together. I hope we can be forgiving of one another as we stumble forward and make mistakes and continue to learn.”


Editorial: Twenty-four years of activism; little change

Missing and murdered aboriginal women cause still prevalent issue in Canada


It’s been 24 years since feet first hit the pavement for missing and murdered Aboriginal women. In 1991, the first march took place in Vancouver, calling attention to the epidemic crime against women in Aboriginal communities. They denounced the government’s inaction; the police’s cold shoulder; the RCMP’s deaf ear.


They are familiar words.


It’s been 24 years. What has changed?


In a 2014 RCMP report, the agency conceded that “Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered and missing women” and “that the total number of murdered and missing Aboriginal females exceeds previous public estimates”. The document goes so far as  to look at probable cause: they estimate only one per cent of missing Aboriginal women are runaways. Comparatively, unknown circumstances and foul play represent a 37 and 27 per cent, respectively.


In cases officially deemed a homicide, Aboriginal women have been consistent and familiar victims for decades. Over a 32-year period, Aboriginal women represented 55 per cent of all female homicide victims in Saskatchewan. Fourty-nine per cent in Manitoba. Nationally, 16 per cent of all female homicide victims are Aboriginal; but Aboriginal women only account for 4.3 per cent of the female population.


24 years. What has changed?


Not enough.


The fact that this is a topic still worthy of an editorial shows how much we have failed. Decades of marching has offered awareness, but not justice. Authorities offer kind words and inquiries, but not solutions. Aboriginal women continue to be over-represented in crime, and under-represented in policy. They continue to vanish on our highways, in our streets and in their homes.


Canada as a country has blocked its ears to Aboriginal plight since its inception. Today, we look back on colonization and residential schools as an evil of the past, as a transgression we have atoned for through kind words and public knowledge. But as long as the voices calling for justice remain marginalized, until our country raises its voice as one community seeking justice, we will be doomed to repeat past mistakes.


History repeats—has been repeating—for 24 long, long years: nothing’s changed.


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