In 1991, a woman was murdered in downtown Vancouver, BC. She was one of 500+ estimated indigenous women to be killed in the Vancouver area of Canada while the authorities did very little to stop them. These women were written off because they were indigenous and assumed to be sex workers, poor and drug addicted. Their lives were seen as less important and their deaths did not warrant a serial killer investigation. The truth is that all of these women mattered and that many came from diverse economic, employment, and addiction/addiction free backgrounds. Even if they hadn’t, the murder of women should have warranted investigation and care.
In 1991, the death of a beloved family member and friend to many in the First Nation communities in Vancouver, acted as a catalyst for community organizers to take awareness and investigation into their own hands. That year marked the first Women’s Memorial March in honor of the lives lost, the families and friends left behind, and the importance of standing against violence against women. The March has taken place every year since on February 14, drawing attention both to the deaths of Indigenous women and the number of DSV incidents that occur on or near Valentine’s Day.
This year’s march represents a continued commitment to memory and equality of indigenous women in Canada but also an attempt of First Nation feminists and women’s groups to use reclaim safe space for Indigenous women during the Winter Olympics, which has already displaced many subsistence level women and families and left them vulnerable to exploitation and harassment. While this move represents a powerful feminist push to harness international attention in the name of women’s safety and indigenous women’s humanity, the event remains primarily a memorial for the dead.
Should you actually be allowed to cross the border, unlike yours truly, please consider standing in solidarity with the community activists and families organizing this event by attending this event. (If you go, remember that the voices of those impacted are central and that you are there in solidarity only.)
The March schedule is:
- 12pm Meet-up at corner of Hastings and Vancouver @ the Carnegie Community Center Theater
- 1pm March begins @ corner of Main and Hastings
- 3pm Healing Circle at Oppenheimer Park
- final meal at the Japanese Language Hall