Ending violence is not just on the agenda, it IS the agenda ~ #MMIW

The following blog will highlight how little action has been undertaken to date despite 58 reports and 700 recommendations tabled so far.

A Canadian National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women was held on February 27, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario with 12 representatives from British Columbia, in attendance.

The Canadian Federal Government has consistently rejected the call for a national inquiry examining the epidemic of violence against Indigenous girls and women, despite the urging from thousands of family members, individuals, women’s groups, communities, First Nations, municipal, provincial and territorial governments, the international community, and human rights organizations.

The Federal Government’s rejection has been largely positioned as a “choice” between taking “action” or a national inquiry.

The consistent levels of indifference combined with a lack of political will to address violence against women, in general and specifically, with respect to Indigenous girls and women is jarring for those of us on the front-line of the war on women including victims, survivors, activist, and advocates.

Violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada

Review of reports and recommendations – Executive Summary
Prepared by Pippa Feinstein and Megan Pearce
February 26, 2015

INTRODUCTION
Indigenous women and girls in Canada are assaulted, abducted and murdered at appallingly high rates. Against the backdrop of this tragic reality, Indigenous leaders, national Indigenous organizations, provincial and territorial governments, non-government organizations, international human rights bodies and individual activists, have repeatedly called for a national inquiry to examine the disproportionately high rates of violence against Indigenous women. The federal government has rejected these calls, justifying its position on the basis that: (a) violence against Indigenous women and girls is not a sociological phenomenon, but should viewed instead as a series of crimes, and (b) that the problem of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada has already been adequately studied.

We have reviewed 58 studies, reports and inquiries which have examined the causes of this violence and made hundreds of recommendations about how best to respond. These reports have been prepared by a diverse set of
authors, including national Indigenous organizations, such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women’s Association of Canada; international organizations such as Amnesty International; Canadian parliamentary committees and provincial and federal Ministries; independent academics; and grassroots organizations. Most recently, the Inter-American Commission issued a report on murders and disappearances of Indigenous women in British Columbia, which was requested by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. The IACHR report describes the severity of this issue and recommends specific action.

The existing literature does not support the government’s stance. First, despite diverse authors, the reports reviewed show strong consensus about the root causes of this violence; it is a sociological issue. Second, the recommendations that are repeated time and again in so many of the reports highlight exactly why an inquiry is needed: to ascertain the extent to which these recommendations have been implemented, and to identify and address obstacles to implementation. Such an inquiry could also provide the basis for future informed and coordinated inter-jurisdictional action on this issue, which is based on credible evidence.

CONSIDERABLE AGREEMENT ON THE CAUSES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST INDIGENOUS
WOMEN
Our research revealed that there is consistent consensus with respect to the causes of violence against
Indigenous women, and that this issue is a sociological one.

There is considerable agreement between the reports about the root causes of violence against Indigenous women. Many reports stress that the economic and social marginalization of Indigenous women makes them more susceptible to violence and less able to escape violent circumstances.

Contributing to this marginalization is a set of complex and overlapping factors. In particular, a lack of access to education and employment opportunities results in high levels of poverty amongst Indigenous women. In addition, according to some reports, Indigenous women experience disproportionately high rates of food insecurity, overcrowded housing, and homelessness. High instances of family breakdown, and the intervention of the child welfare system further contribute to the vulnerabilities of Indigenous women and girls. Finally, chronic underfunding of services to help Indigenous women cope with these circumstances also contributes to their susceptibility to violence and limited ability to leave violent situations.

According to many of the reports reviewed, the poverty and discrimination experienced by Indigenous women is a product of continuing racism and sexism in Canada that excludes and devalues Indigenous women. The historical context of this violence, and in particular the legacies of colonialism, the residential school system, and discriminatory Canadian laws such as the Indian Act, continue to adversely impact the wellbeing of Indigenous women and girls. And yet, police and health care professionals fail to adequately prioritize the health and safety of Indigenous women, and a lack of culturally sensitive programs prevent the services that already exist from addressing challenges specific to Indigenous women’s experiences. These issues are compounded by an unresponsive justice system that is often unable to accommodate the needs of those most at risk.

Despite the federal government’s contrary assertions, the reports reviewed make plain: violence against Indigenous women in Canada is a sociological phenomenon.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION TO ADDRESS THE VIOLENCE
Our research has also revealed that there is considerable agreement in the literature with respect to the
recommendations for future action to prevent and end violence against Indigenous women in Canada.

The 58 reports we reviewed contained over 700 recommendations. Most of these recommendations concerned preventative action, highlighting the need to address the causes of violence against Indigenous women in holistic
ways. Within the large number of recommendations, sixteen overarching ‘themes’ were identified. Below is a
brief summary of each theme and an assessment of the extent to which the associated recommendations have
been implemented:

1. 4 reports published between 2012 and 2015 recommend the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into this issue. Another report prepared in 2012 contains detailed recommendations for how to ensure any future inquiry will be fair and inclusive. The federal government refuses to implement this recommendation.

2. 12 reports, published between 2002 and 2015, recommend the establishment of a national action plan, and call for governments and service providers to ensure that action is coordinated. The federal government’s current ‘action plan’ falls far short of providing the preventative measures or coordination of inter-agency or inter-jurisdictional efforts necessary for a proper response. Moreover, funding for the ‘action plan’ pales next to the funding cut to Indigenous organizations, many of which offered services that addressed the root causes for the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women.

3. 4 reports, published between 2004 and 2012, recommend greater public acknowledgement of the extent of violence against Indigenous women, and priority afforded to the issue. The only action on this recommendation has occurred at a provincial level. In particular, the government of British Columbia has signed a memorandum of understanding with First Nations and Métis leaders that explicitly acknowledged the extent of this issue and declares it a priority.

4. 28 reports, published between 1996 and 2015, stress the importance of properly resourced, Indigenous-specific programs to address both the causes of violence against Indigenous women and to provide support and services to women and girls who have experienced violence, and their families. Our research has shown that the federal government has dramatically cut funding to Indigenous-led organizations providing services to Indigenous communities, and Indigenous women in particular. These organizations delivered preventative programs, aimed at alleviating poverty and minimizing the social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, as well as services designed to protect, heal and support women and girls who had experienced violence. By cutting funding to these organizations, the federal government has failed to implement this recommendation.

5. 12 reports, published between 1996 and 2015, stress the importance of greater involvement of Indigenous peoples in program development and delivery. At least on the federal level, the involvement of Indigenous peoples in the development and delivery of programs directly affecting them has steadily decreased. Federal budget cuts have effectively subsumed Indigenous-specific programs into mainstream government services, decreasing Indigenous people’s involvement in program development and delivery.

6. 14 reports, published between 1994 and 2015, recommended improved data gathering and publication. Over the past few years, the federal government has defunded some of the most significant Indigenous-specific data gathering initiatives, and prevented the continued gathering and publication of information about violence against Indigenous women. Further, inter-jurisdictional police information sharing initiatives still require urgent attention.

7. 15 reports, published between 2005 and 2014, recommend further awareness raising and public education efforts. It is unclear what education or awareness raising initiatives are currently supported financially by the federal government. There is some action at a provincial level, with the most promising programs being designed and delivered by independent or non-government groups.

8. 12 reports, published between 2002 and 2013, recommend improvements to transport services and physical access to accommodation, including safe housing and shelters. Our research has shown that there has been little improvement in this area and that inadequate shelter and transportation continue to put economically marginalized Indigenous women at risk.

9. 5 reports, published between 2002 and 2012, recommend additional support for community-based first response and search and rescue. Our research was not able to identify any positive developments or changes in this area.

10. 4 reports, published between 2004 and 2012, recommend greater protection of Indigenous women working in the sex industry. New legislation on this topic has recently been passed by the federal government, and has received mixed reactions. However, there is very little to suggest the implementation of recommendations aimed at preventing Indigenous women from having to engage in survival sex work, or protecting those who are forced to do this work.

11. 21 reports, published between 2001 and 2015, recommend measures to improve the relationships between police and Indigenous communities. Despite some limited initiatives in recent years, our research failed to find evidence that such developments have significantly improved the relationships between police departments and Indigenous communities.

12. 15 reports, published between 2004 and 2015, recommend improvements to investigations into and prosecutions over missing and murdered Indigenous women. A small number of initiatives have been developed at a provincial level, in particular in British Columbia. None of these initiatives is specific to Indigenous women. Moreover, our research suggests the programs that are in place have not been effective.

13. 6 reports, published between 2001 and 2015, concern the importance of support for community based and restorative justice. Some provinces have programs that include community justice initiatives, such as sentencing circles. However, recent federal legislation involving mandatory minimum sentences, may frustrate the growth of these initiatives.

14. 5 reports, between 1996 and 2013, have recommended that Canada endorse international declarations and ratify international conventions concerned with promoting the safety of women, and Indigenous peoples’ rights. The federal government has not implemented these recommendations, refusing to endorse or ratify applicable international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

15. 5 reports, published between 1996 and 2009, recommend several specific areas of domestic law reform. While some limited reforms have been made, significant discrimination still exists in the Canadian legal system and further law reform is required.

16. 4 reports, published between 2006 and 2012, recommend a compensation and/or healing fund for the victims of this violence and their families. This has not been implemented by the federal government.

The recommendations summarized above cover a range of responses – from preventative actions to address the systemic discrimination and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, through to recommendations aimed at improving the way Indigenous women are treated by the police and in the justice system. The recommendations illustrate the importance of addressing the outcomes and the root causes of violence. In fact, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has recently confirmed, in a detailed and ground-breaking report, that Canada is legally obliged, in accordance with established principles of international law, to prevent violence against Indigenous women by addressing the “institutional and structural inequalities confront[ing] indigenous women in Canada”, including by measures to reduce poverty, guarantee proper housing and improve education and employment opportunities.1 According to the Inter-American Commission, the Canadian government’s legal obligation also extends to ensuring that, when violence occurs, it is promptly investigated, punished and that reparations are made to the victims.

THE NEED FOR A NATIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
It is clear from our research that despite wide agreement about the causes of violence against Indigenous women, and the response required, very few recommendations have been implemented by federal or provincial governments. Moreover, determining which recommendations have been implemented at either federal or provincial levels is made considerably difficult by the very limited information available publicly. When information is available publicly, it rarely, if ever, extends to an assessment of how well various initiatives or programs are performing. Finally, our research shows that there is little in the way of formal government commitments to implement existing these recommendations, and that inter-agency and or inter-jurisdictional coordination of existing implementation efforts is sorely lacking.

In light of these challenges, a properly mandated and well-run national commission of inquiry offers an efficient and effective information gathering tool, with robust powers to compel the production of information and witnesses, and to conduct coordinated and comprehensive research with the support of experts where necessary. An inquiry can therefore consolidate and update existing knowledge about the causes of violence against Indigenous women, comprehensively evaluate the adequacy of existing initiatives and programs, and help Canadians and policy-makers understand why there has been so much resistance to action to address this issue. This would help to ensure that any recommendations it makes are based on a solid understanding of what is being done already. Finally, a national public inquiry can be an important way to make the Canadian governments accountable for failing to undertake coordinated and informed action in response to violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Our goal with this research is to help inform existing and future advocacy initiatives related to the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls.

RESEARCH BRIEF AND FORMAT OF REPORT
A. This review was conducted on behalf of the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women (LSC). We were originally briefed to complete three main tasks:

1) To review 40 reports that examine issue of violence against Aboriginal women, and to list the recommendations made therein (if any). This list of 40 reports was provided by the Department of Justice to justify the federal government’s stance that there is no need for a national public inquiry into this issue,

2) To find additional reports the federal government may be relying on to support their refusal to hold a national public inquiry. (The LSC had been notified that the federal government is relying on the existence of at least 49 reports, to support their position.), and

3) To research and analyze the extent to which the recommendations contained in these reports (if any) have been implemented to date.

B. Organization of research outcomes

We have organized our research into three parts:
1) a spreadsheet containing the details of the 58 reports we have reviewed. This document contains a brief summary of each report’s contents, including a list of causes for violence identified in each report, and a summary of the recommendations in each report;
2) a memorandum dividing all reports’ recommendations into 16 themes, and assessing the extent to which federal and provincial governments have taken action under each of the recommendation themes; and
3) An appendix containing a list of all reports’ recommendations in their original wording, also organized by theme.

Federal Government’s record of refusal: An act of violence against Indigenous women

On November 12, 1971 Helen Betty Osborne was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in the Pas, Northern Manitoba. On August 2014, we learned about the brutal murder of 15 year old Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Within the 43 year time span between the two murders, hundreds of Indigenous women have continued to go missing or have been murdered in every region across Canada.

Here’s a list of some of the most recent reports calling for the Canadian public to address the issue.

1. SUMA backs inquiry into MMIW, pushes to keep revenue sharing stable, Feb. 3, 2015:

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, SUMA joined their voices in support of an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

2. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Issues Report on missing and murdered women, December 21, 2014:

The IACHR report focuses on British Columbia and recommends movement to address violence against women and support for the creation of a national-level action plan or nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

3. The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) makes new research available, December 6, 2014:

Following the murder of Inuit university student Loretta Saunders, LEAF published two documents which list and synthesize 40 reports for MMIW advocates.

4. The Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women issue report, March 2014:

The Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women issues a report called ‘Invisible women: A Call to Action — ACAT Canada’, concludes by saying “the families will have to wait until the government changes to get the National Public Enquiry and National Action Plan”

5. UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya visits Canada and issues report on situation of Indigenous in Canada, July 2014:

United Nations Report — Crisis in Canada following a visit to Canada from October 7-11, 2013 by James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The document highlights least 29 official inquires with 500 recommendations for action have been put forward since 1996.

6. Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres respond to Royal Canadian Mounted Police, May 2014:

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) response to Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Operations Report slams the November 2013 document. The OFIFC outlines inconsistencies and calls on the RCMP to provide concrete actions to address the high rates of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

7. RCMP issue report Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, November 2013:

Over ten years after Stolen sisters was issued, the RCMP responds to missing and murdered Indigenous women. Brought us to a shocking total of 1100+ cases. Presently, the document is the most cited report used by media.

8. Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (Criminal): Missing Women Working Group issues report and recommendations, January 2012:

Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (Criminal): Missing Women Working Group established in February 2006.  Focuses between 2006 and 2010 confirming factors under which Aboriginal women became victims of violence and issues recommendations to reduce these factors.

9. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry issues a report in response to Robert Pickton case, November 2012:

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry issues a report entitled ‘Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary’ a four volume response to British Columbia’s Missing and Murdered women in the wake of the Robert Pickton case.

10. Amnesty International report documents stories of missing and murdered Indigenous Women, October 2004:

Amnesty International Report entitled ‘Stolen sisters — A human rights response to Discrimination and Violence against Aboriginal women in Canada’ documents the stories of missing and murdered women over 30 years. The culmination of many inquiries (starting as far back as 1971), the report called for “Canadian officials to ensure the rights and safety of Aboriginal people are respected and upheld by police and courts.”

The list of reports originally appeared on MUSKRAT Magazine.

“We Can Afford a Missing Women’s Inquiry

It’s not just another study. It’s what indigenous people deserve.”

Joint Press Release: Coalition Continues to Demand National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

February 27, 2015

A coalition of advocacy groups, Indigenous organizations, and family members continue to demand that the federal government hold a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. In its January 2015 report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights strongly supported a national inquiry because there is “much still to be understood and much to be acknowledged.” In a report of his visit to Canada in 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights and Freedoms, Dr. James Anaya, also supported the need for a national inquiry, as have Indigenous women and communities, human rights groups, opposition parties and Premiers.

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A national inquiry is needed to allow all voices to be heard and to educate the public about the root and intersecting causes of violence, systemic poverty, racism, sexism and intergenerational abuse. It must thoroughly investigate all national, provincial, regional and municipal police practices/policies and make sweeping changes to how Indigenous women and girls are treated in Canada.

The coalition acknowledges that the federal and provincial/territorial governments and Indigenous advocacy groups are meeting today at a national roundtable on this issue, but stresses that the roundtable cannot address the root causes of the tragic reality that Indigenous women and girls continue to be assaulted, go missing and are murdered at a shockingly disproportionate rate. A one-day family gathering occurred yesterday which provided space for the voices of families who were able to attend; however, there are still hundreds of families that need to have their voices heard. A peoples’ roundtable is also occurring today but those voices will not be heard at the main political roundtable.

A report released yesterday by a legal strategy group on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada reviewed 58 studies, reports and inquiries and found that the governments have only fully implemented a handful of recommendations, while hundreds have been made. This is absolutely unacceptable, and we call on the governments in Canada to review this important report and act swiftly on the recommendations, including the glaring need for a national public inquiry leading to a comprehensive and coordinated national strategy.

The coalition is well aware that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt is on record agreeing with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a national inquiry is not needed. We are further concerned that the government has repeatedly resorted to inflammatory and misleading language, such as the Minister’s comment that “if the [Indigenous] guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that’s how they are treated,” which deflect the government’s own responsibilities by blaming Indigenous societies and cultures. Former Commissioner Wally Oppal who headed the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia has also stated that a national inquiry is not needed and that the MWCI fulfilled the need for any investigation in British Columbia. These statements from public officials are completely opposite to what the grassroots, Indigenous and women’s organizations, and research demonstrates, and contribute to the institutionalized discrimination that Indigenous women and girls face.

The coalition will continue supporting the family members and working at the grassroots levels to advance justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and will continue to relentlessly pursue a national public inquiry leading to a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.

To read the Legal Strategy Coalition’s full report: http://www.leaf.ca/legal-strategy-coalition-on-mmiw/
For further information please contact:
Amnesty International Canada, Craig Benjamin (613) 744-7667, ext 235
Atira Women’s Resource Society, Janice Abbott, Executive Director, (604) 331-1420
Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall (604) 808-0507
Beverley Jacobs, LL.B., LL.M., PhD Candidate, Advocate for Families of MMIWG , (778) 877-7402
Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams (778) 709-6498
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Terry Teegee (250) 640-3256
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre , Carol Martin (604) 681-8480
Holly Jarrett, Creator of #AmINext campaign, (613) 304-9566
Jenny Kwan, MLA, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant (604) 775-0790
PHS Community Services Society, Patrick Smith (604) 779-6837
Pivot Legal Society, Katrina Pacey, (604) 729-7849
The Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Shelagh Day ([email protected])
Providing Alternatives, Counselling & Education (PACE) Society, Laura Dilley (604) 872-7651
Provincial Council of Women of British Columbia (PCWBC), Rosemary Mallory (604) 985-0878
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Keira Smith-Tague (604) 872-8212
Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (250) 490-5314
Union Gospel Mission, Derek Weiss (604) 253-3323
Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society, Lillian Howard (604) 253-9575
West Coast LEAF, Kasari Govender (604)684-8772
WISH Drop-In Centre Society, Kate Gibson (604) 720-5517

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?

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February 14th Women’s Memorial March 2015 – “Their Spirits Live Within Us”

In January 1991 a woman was murdered on Powell Street in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family. Her murder in particular acted as a catalyst and  February 14 became a day of remembrance and mourning and this year, twenty three years later, February 14 Women’s Memorial Marches are held across the lands and each march reflects the nuances and complexities of the particular region with the common goals of expressing, community, compassion, and connection for all women.  It is a day to protest the forces of colonization, misogyny, poverty, racism and to celebrate survival, resistance, struggle and solidarity and to make visible these forces and women’s resistance.  Led by Indigenous Women, February 14 Women’s Memorial Marches signify the strength of decolonization and the power of Indigenous Women’s leadership throughout and across the lands.

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LO-RES-Angela-MacDougallMany community organizations and international human rights organizations have pointed to the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. It is well-documented that British Columbia (BC) has the highest number of cases which accounts for almost a third of all cases based on Native Women’s Association of Canada. Some of the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in BC can be learned here.

February 14 — Why I March?

February 14 — Why I March?  is a blog series written by women to bring voice to the personal experiences of the activist, the family members, the women who work tirelessly in their communities to address violence.  Over the next days leading up to February 14, 2014 individual reflections will be posted here with the goal of drawing attention to the strength of women and the power of this unique community event.  Unlike any other of its kind, February 14 Women’s Memorial Marches demonstrates the power of women’s collective and community organizing and through the telling of February 14 –Why I March? reflects the personal and the political.

Here is a roundup of the blogs:

https://www.bwss.org/february-14-why-i-march/

Why I March: Marlene George

By Marlene George

marlene1In 1996 I became involved with the February 14 Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) through my work at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. I was working with Marion Dubick who was helping the women to organize the march for February 14 1997. Each week we would begin with a group of women who were interested in helping to organize the march. Tasks were assigned to each person to complete for the next meeting. Women in the DTES were very active in the community in the 1990s and often participated in the Take Back the Night march held each fall. Read  more here.

February 14th in Toronto — Ceremony as an Act of Sovereignty: Audrey Huntley

By Audrey Huntley

2006_memorial_0For Cheyenne, Terra and Bella.

Another year has passed since we last stood together in ceremony outside police headquarters in Toronto.

Three beautiful, young women have passed on since.

Cheyenne was a mother. Read more here.

 

Why I March? Women’s Memorial March February 14, 2014 — Winnipeg, Manitoba

By Sandra DeLaronde

Picture2I have many memories of long summers and winter holidays in my Mothers home community of Cross Lake Manitoba.  It was the centre of my world before Hydro development forever changed the landscape and the people. My memories hold some of my greatest moments of joy and lifelong friendships.  I always hold a connection to my family and the land  and I am very protective of  these memories of Cross Lake.  Lorna Lynn Blacksmith and her family are from Cross Lake.  It just rattled my being to know that such a young woman from my home had dissappeared from the streets of Winnipeg. Read more here.

Why I march in Vancouver’s February 14 Women’s Memorial March

By Lorelei Williams

Picture1I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this when I say a scary moment in a person’s life is when they lose a child for just a few minutes or even seconds. You and the child are together and then suddenly you aren’t.  Your heart begins to race; you can even hear it beating in your head.  Everything feels like it’s going in slow motion. You’re panicking, your head is pounding, you start to shake and feel like throwing up. Then, all of a sudden you see the child! You’re so relieved and everything is ok.

Unfortunately this isn’t the case for several Aboriginal families across Canada.  Including my own.  My cousin Tanya Holyk went missing in 1996.  Her DNA was later found on Pickton’s Farm.  My Aunty Belinda Williams who I closely resemble went missing around 1978.  She disappeared without a trace.  She still remains missing today. Read more here.

Memorial March for All the Missing and Murdered Women of Edmonton

By Danielle Boudreau

Picture3It all started for me back in 2004, when Rachel Quinney was found murdered in a field Northeast of Sherwood Park, Alberta. She was 19 years old and her body had been mutilated. The headlines in the paper at the time used so many demeaning words as if to justify the death of a young woman whose life had taken a wrong turn. A year later on May 6, 2005 another friend of mine was found in a field, also murdered and once again demeaned in the media. I couldn’t sit back and do nothing, I felt I needed to tell the country who these women really were. I became a part of the Project KARE website and started chatting on the forum. When the forum was shut down, a few of us girls started another site to memorialize the women who were found dead.Read more here.

We march on…

By Raven Bowen

Picture4 I believe my first February 14th Women’s Memorial March was in 1997 in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. I was the support worker at PACE Society at the time and I was asked to say a few words. This was a great honour.

During the March we would customarily stop at the steps of the old Vancouver Police Station to listen and to share inspirational speeches and calls to action from women’s organizations. I remember how the community — a diverse grouping of Elders, family members, residents and community workers — claimed the Hastings and Main intersection.  Read more here.

February 14 Women’s Memorial Marches: Not forgetting the legacy and honouring through action

By Native Youth Sexual Health Network

Picture5This year at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), we continue to participate in February 14 Women’s Memorial March events to remember and honor missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTTQQIA), gender non-conforming people and their families. At NYSHN we march, gather and ceremony together in spirit with one and other; remembering and honoring ancestors and generations to come. Despite the stereotype from mainstream media outlets of Indigenous women and communities being “victims only”; Women’s Memorial Marches are a concrete example of what we have been doing and continue to do about stopping and preventing violence. Coming together in this way is symbolic of us not standing for the loss of family and friends without action and responding together across our different nations. Read more here.

Why I March at the Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women in Montreal

By Maya Rolbin-Ghanie

MontrealI march because:

…love is everything; it is all that matters; nothing else measures up or ever will. Love of self; love of life; love of nature; love of resistance. We need to block off streets and take up space and make people late, all to remind ourselves and those around us, and even the world, that placing any interest above love is to bow to fear.

…I’m afraid, in spite of myself. I want to walk down the street alone at night with no other distraction than the curve of the moon and the wind at my back and the shifting of the leaves. It’s unacceptable, all the blood and pain of daughters still pooling and seeping into the ground all around us. Those who possess the most power are always the most hunted. This has to change. Read more here.

From Juarez to Vancouver: Why I march on February 14

By Rosa Elena Arteaga

Picture8I joined the February 14th Women’s Memorial March in Downtown Eastside Vancouver in 1998. At the time, I had just immigrated to Canada. I came escaping from injustice and looking for a safe place to live for me and my family. However, sooner than later, I learned about the real Canadian history and it was very different to the official story that I had been told. I learned about the impact of colonization on the Indigenous people of this land. I witnessed and experienced racism and discrimination. I realized that the history of colonization and its impacts on Indigenous people in Latin America was similar to the impact on Indigenous people in Canada. Read more here.

February 14th Women’s Memorial Marches 2015

photo-8Vancouver: Saturday February 14th, march starts at noon from Carnegie (Main and Hastings). Feb 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March – DTES. Facebook Page

Toronto: 10th Annual Strawberry Ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Saturday February 14th, Strawberry Ceremony with Elder Wanda Whitebird begins at 12:30 at Police Headquarters, 40 College Street at Bay, Toronto. Facebook  Page

Victoria: Saturday February 14th at 11 am Our Place (919 Pandora Avenue), noon march to Parliament. Stolen Sisters Memorial March. Facebook Page

Ottawa: Thursday February 12th at 5 pm. FSIS 5th Annual Day Of Justice Feast And Ceremony at the The Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. Facebook Page

Mississaugas Of The Credit First Nation: Friday, February 13, 5 pm Vigil – King & Main in Hagersville, followed by Strawberry Ceremony to honour the women held at New credit at the Sacred Fire. Facebook Page

Winnipeg. Saturday February 14-2015 @ 1:30 pm – 5:30pm, Bulman Centre: Multipurpose Room University of Winnipeg. March will commence at approximately 2:00 pm. 8th Annual Memorial March for all Missing and Murdered ~ Winnipeg. Facebook Page

Calgary: Saturday, February 14, 2015, will mark Calgary’s 7th Annual Valentine’s Day Women’s Memorial March. The event will take place at Scarboro United Church (134 Scarboro Avenue SW) and will begin at 6:30pm with speeches. The march will begin at 7pm and light meal will follow. Facebook  Page.

Courtnay: Saturday February 14, 2015 at 1 pm at Simms Millennium Park. Let us gather for a memorial walk to honour our missing and murdered indigenous women. Our women are sacred; they are the life givers, leaders, shakers and movers. Let’s join together and walk in solidarity with the precious lives that were taken too soon. Bring candles, drums, songs, pictures and beautiful energy. Facebook Page.

Nelson: Saturday, February 14th, 2015 12pm. Gathering in front of City Hall, We will gather to share prayers, songs, and stories to honour and grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice. Bring your drums. Everyone is welcome to attend. Facebook Page

Maple Ridge:  Saturday, February 14, 2015 at noon at Memorial Peach Park, 11900 – 224th Street, Maple Ridge.  Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women – A time for families to gather and memorialize the loved ones who are missing and murdered – February 14
Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women.  Facebook Page

Grand Forks: Saturday, February 14th, 2015 12pm. We will meet in front of the Courthouse at Noon for Smudging, prayers, words and singing – we will then march to the Women’s Resource Centre for a slide show and pot luck luncheon. Facebook Page.

Prince George: Saturday, February 14th, 2015 from 2pm to 4pm at Prince George Court, 250 Georgia Street. In memory, may we walk with all our grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, daughters, and friends in our hearts from our communities. For more information, contact Arnold Norman Yellowman/ Gabby Solonas at 250-649-9273, or e-mail [email protected]

Six Nations: Sunday February 15th from 3-4 pm at Veteran’s Park. Second annual Honoring Our Sisters: Walk and Vigil for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Facebook Page

Sault Ste. Marie: Wednesday February 18th at the Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse from 12-1pm. March For Missing and Murdered Women organized by Womyn 4 Social Justice, Phoenix Rising Women’s Centre and Nimkii-Naabkawagan Family Crisis Shelter. Sponsored by Algoma Council on Domestic Violence.

Nanaimo: Saturday February 14th from 11 am to 2 pm. Gathering at top parking lot at Vancouver Island University and walking to Swy-A-Lana Lagoon in downtown Nanaimo for prayer songs and refreshments. Facebook Page

London, Ontario: Friday February 13th, 2015 from 12-4 pm at 343 Richmond Street. Agenda items include a round dance, feast and prayer for community members who will be attending.

Denver, Colorado, USA: Saturday February 14th at noon at 16th Street Mall. Sing Our Rivers Red March. Facebook  Page.

Fargo, North Dakota, USA: Saturday, February 14th from noon-3 pm at Fargo Public Library. Rally in support of our missing & murdered indigenous women across the US and Canada. In solidarity with the ongoing efforts in Canada, & to raise awareness / gain recognition about the very same problem in the US. Facebook Page.

Minneapolis, USA: Saturday February 14th at 11:30 am at Minneapolis American Indian Center 1530 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404. 1st Annual Women’s Memorial March: Sing Our Rivers Red Twin Cities. Facebook Page.

25th Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March Needs Your Help

memorial

“Their Spirits Live Within Us”

25th Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March needs your help…

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March began after the brutal and tragic murder of a Coast Salish woman in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Women from the community were so outraged by the manner in which she was murdered and fed up with the continued violence against women in the community. The women organized a march through the Downtown Eastside to raise awareness around violence against women.

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is sponsored by organizations and individuals like you. The march is held to honour and grieve the loss of the lives of women who die each year due to violence and to remember the more than 32 women who are still listed as missing. Each year the Memorial March committee must raise funds to pay for such things as hall rental, sound system, food, red & yellow roses, memorial brochures, posters, candles, tobacco and other expenses.  If you would like to sponsor one component of this years march please call Fay Blaney at 604 681 8480 ext 234 or email [email protected] or Alice Kendall at 604-681-8480 ext 223, email [email protected].

Please join us at the march, please respect the march and leave your agency banners at home as the Women’s Memorial March carries five banners to honour the women.

We thank you in advance for your support and look forward to you joining us at the 25th Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March. It will be held on Saturday February 14th, 2015 starting at NOON at the corner of Main & Hastings in Vancouver.

Please make cheques payable to the:

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, memo:  Memorial March,

302 Columbia St. Vancouver, BC V6A 4J1

All donations over $10.00 will be gratefully acknowledged with a tax deductible receipt.

Thank you very much for your attention, time and support.

Marlene George                                                                      Fay Blaney

Co-Chair                                                                                 Co-Chair

On behalf of the organizing committee of the 2015 February 14th Women’s Memorial March

 

News Release: Advocacy Groups Object to Stalling by B.C. Since Conclusion of Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

2013July_CoalitionOpenLetter_logos

(Coast Salish Territory/ Vancouver, B.C.- July 10, 2013) The attached letter is from an informal coalition of 20 community and advocacy groups in response to the recent announcement by former Attorney General Shirley Bond that civil litigation by children of Robert Pickton’s victims may “constrain” its work in responding to the recommendations of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, and to the recent resignation of Honourable Steven Point as advocate for the recommendations. The coalition is seeking engagement with newly appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Honourable Suzanne Anton.

By way of background, on April 2, 2012, fourteen groups sent an open letter to Commissioner Oppal advising that they would not be participating in the Policy Forums or Study Commissions aspects of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Many of these groups, plus other supporters, have been meeting as an informal coalition since then to discuss how to move forward in supporting the children and families, and in pursuing justice for the missing and murdered girls and women.

For more information, please contact:
Aboriginal Front Door Society, Mona Woodward, (604) 697-5662
Atira Women’s Resource Society, Janice Abbott, (604) 331-1420
B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Micheal Vonn, (604) 250-6815
BC Native Women’s Association, Barbara Morin, (250) 461-6880
Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, (604) 808-0507
Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams, (778) 709-6498
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Tribal Chair Terry Teegee, (250) 640-3256
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Alice Kendall, (604) 681-8480 ext. 233
Ending Violence Association British Columbia, Beverly Jacobs, (604) 633-2506 ext. 16
February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee, Lisa Yellow-Quill, (604) 618-1061
Lookout Emergency Aid Society, Karen O’Shannacery, (604) 255-0340 ext. 12
PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society, Ellen Wiebe, [email protected]
PHS Community Services Society, Patrick Smith, (604) 779-6837
Pivot Legal Society, Doug King, (778) 898-6349
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (250) 490-5314
Union Gospel Mission, Genesa Greening, (604) 506-0845
West Coast LEAF, Laura Track, (604) 684-8772, ext.214
WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Kate Gibson, (604) 720-5517


Honourable Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
PO BOX 9044 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria BC, V8W 9E2
Via facsimile: 250 387-6411

July 10, 2013

Dear Attorney General:

Open Letter: Community and Advocacy Groups Strongly Object to Stalling by Province since Conclusion of Missing Women Commission of Inquiry and Set out Requirements for Participation

Congratulations on your appointment to Minister of Justice and Attorney General, we anticipate a strong working relationship with you to advance the critical file of missing and murdered women. We are a coalition of community and advocacy groups who were shut out of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the “Inquiry”). We understand that your June 10 “Mandate Letter” from the Premier states that one of your priorities is to “consider implementation of the recommendations of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.” However, prior to your appointment and shortly after the election, your predecessor announced that civil litigation by children of Robert Pickton’s victims may constrain the government’s work in responding to the recommendations of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, and that Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl (the Honourable Steven Point) resigned as advocate for their implementation. We are frustrated and offended by the suggestion that civil litigation by families will constrain the government’s response or stall the work that needs to be done to deal with the ongoing tragedy of violence against women, particularly Indigenous women. If the government truly wishes to make changes in good faith and in the spirit of reconciliation, it should not constrain its actions out of fear that those actions may have an impact on litigation. Such a tactic is not a legal requirement – contrary to the inference that your predecessor appears to have made in her statement that litigation must take precedence over any other process. Rather, it is a defensive move that has already shaken the hope that there might be constructive action taken by the government to protect vulnerable women.

As you know, the undersigned groups were not funded to participate in the Inquiry, and did not participate in the Policy Forums or Study Commission aspects of the Inquiry. We refused to lend the credibility of our respective organizations’ names and expertise to the Inquiry, which could only be described as a deeply flawed and illegitimate process. For decades, family members of missing women, grassroots women’s organizations in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (DTES), community groups and Indigenous and public leaders, have incessantly called for a full public inquiry into the missing women of the DTES and the Highway of Tears. We were forced to withdraw due to denial of a just process, uneven funding for applicants granted standing, discrimination against women and Indigenous groups, and violations of international human rights standards. We were deeply troubled by the extremely narrow and restrictive terms of reference and the imposed tight timelines, and continued to demand that all applicants who were given standing be provincially funded, as recommended by Commissioner Oppal. The Commission lost all credibility among Indigenous, sex work, human rights and women’s organizations that work with and are comprised of the very women most affected by the issues this Inquiry was charged with investigating.

The litigation does not prevent the government from continuing essential work with impacted families and communities to create tangible solutions to the tragedy of violence against women that continues to unfold. Former Attorney General Shirley Bond’s statement that the work may be “constrained” unfairly places the blame for the government’s own inaction on the families involved in the litigation, who are seeking justice for the deaths of their loved ones. The families of the missing and murdered women must absolutely not be made into scapegoats for the government’s lack of progress.

Since the conclusion of the deeply flawed Inquiry, and the release of a 1500-page report by Commissioner Wally Oppal in December, 2012, the Province has been extremely slow in taking action implementing recommendations from the report, despite the glaring urgency for real and substantial change to be made on the ground in order to prevent further violence and to pursue justice for the missing and murdered women. We acknowledge that the immediate undertaking of the government to open the WISH Drop-In Centre over night with annualized funding of $750,000 was a critical and positive step; however, we cannot understand why, given the forced vulnerability to violence on the Highway of Tears, that the second immediate measure recommended by Commissioner Oppal to develop and implement an enhanced public transit system to provide a safer travel option connecting the Northern capital and Northern communities, particularly along Highway 16 (the Highway of Tears), was not implemented.

Members of the Coalition met with the Honourable Steven Point twice to discuss his role as “champion” to provide advice to the government as it implements the recommendations, and as Chair of a new Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Safety and Security of Vulnerable Women. Mr. Point indicated to us that he would be stepping down after getting the process up and running, with the recommendation that a woman should chair the committee. He did not state that this was related to any litigation, even though the coalition met with him on the morning of May 14, just days before his resignation was announced. We feel extremely betrayed by this sudden shift, which was made without any consultation or engagement with the families or with impacted community and advocacy groups. Despite our skepticism about the Commission and our previous exclusion, summarized above, we participated in these meetings with Mr. Point in good faith, with a number of our members considering how to engage constructively in that process. The government’s announcement has, once again, damaged the relationship between BC, the families of the victims (who spoke for themselves about their disappointment after the announcement), and stakeholder groups.

Recommendations Not Implemented: Upon review of the 63 formal recommendations in Commissioner Oppal’s report, which was released approximately six months ago, we are extremely concerned that the Province has begun work on only two of the recommendations, now apparently stalled out with the resignation of Mr. Point:

12.1 That Provincial Government appoint an independent advisor to serve as champion for the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. This appointment should take effect within 12 weeks of release of the report.
12.2 That the independent advisor work collaboratively with representatives of Aboriginal communities, the DTES, and the victims’ families in the implementation process.
Given that Mr. Point was appointed in December 2012, we strongly object to the fact that none of the other recommendations have begun to be considered or implemented, and we are offended with the absence of justice for our missing and murdered women. Approximately six months after the release of the MWCI final report and recommendations, we ask whether the government thoroughly reviewed the report as committed on December 17.We call on the newly re-elected government – as a whole – to prioritize the issue of missing and murdered women, and to work with the families and community organizations to make real change. We know that the Premier has spoken of a strong commitment to government serving the needs of families. We expect the Premier and the government to understand that it is impossible to focus on creating jobs and building a strong economy without equally attending to the pursuit of justice for the most marginalized people and families in the Province.Necessary Conditions to Implement Recommendations: The Inquiry process was flawed from the beginning, and we were extremely concerned with, among other shortcomings: limitations of the terms of reference; no lawyers for organizations and community members who represent crucial perspectives; lack of witness protection; delayed, incomplete disclosure; impossible timelines; and limited witnesses. The failed Inquiry, far from assisting Indigenous women and women from the Downtown Eastside, ironically reinforced their marginalization. Gender and sexual violence against girls and women continues in Downtown Eastside Vancouver unabated. The Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry missed an opportunity to respond to this critical social issue through recommending funding for a range of gender and sexual violence support services and gender and sexual violence prevention activities. We advise that if the Province of British Columbia is going to be successful in implementing the recommendations of the Inquiry:
• The Province must work collaboratively and directly with families and impacted community groups to implement recommendations and genuinely take action to make real change on the ground for vulnerable women, and not make unilateral decisions.
• We suggest a focus on key recommendations, determined in cooperation with the families and impacted community groups, and giving urgent priority to those which would direct and provide assistance to the families and to seeking justice for the missing and murdered women.
• There must be adequate funding from the Province to implement the recommendations.
• The proposed Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Safety and Security of Vulnerable Women, if established, must be large enough to allow for adequate representatives from the groups involved, and must include elder advisors as full members. The proposed Committee must allow the people most affected to appoint who sits on the Committee from their respective groups, rather than allowing the Minister with discretionary powers to make appointments. We are confident this will create a stronger and more effective committee.
• In addition to the fact that recommendations 12.1 and 12.2 are currently not even being implemented given the resignation of Mr. Point, the Province must take into consideration that the independent advisor would be most effective if it is a woman, given the extremely sensitive and gender-based nature of this work. Further, we object to the appointment of an independent advisor to serve as “champion” because we are concerned that this would mean the independent advisor would be bound to support all the recommendations even if s/he – or the Committee – did not agree with all of them, effectively taking away any independence.
• The Province must commit to a public, independent annual report on the situation of missing and murdered women in British Columbia, and on implementation of the Commissioner’s recommendations. We strongly urge you to ensure that the recommendations do not get put aside and ignored, as the majority of the recommendations did coming out of the Frank Paul Inquiry.
• In order to address the gaps and eliminate the critical and devastating issues of violence against Indigenous girls and women, intersecting and deeply rooted factors including colonialism, racism, and extreme conditions of poverty must be examined. We remind you that in Canada, Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women to die as a result of violence, and that this problem is a national and international crisis. We absolutely refuse to accept the racist notion concerning the normativity of violence that many Indigenous girls and women experience on a regular basis.
Coalition Committed to Pursuing a National Inquiry and International Investigation: In December 2011, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women announced that it was initiating an investigation of Canada with respect to disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and girls. Given the failures of the British Columbian and Canadian governments to effectively address the human rights crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, including the social and economic conditions that make Indigenous women and girls more vulnerable to violence in the first place, our organizations will dedicate what limited resources we can offer to working with the United Nations to facilitate their investigations and fact-finding processes, in order to ensure that Canada is held internationally accountable for these ongoing human rights violations.Canada has been criticized by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and, in 2012, by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination because of the inadequacies in its law and practice respecting the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of violence against women, particularly Aboriginal women. The high levels of violence experienced by Indigenous women, as well as the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women across the country are evidence of Canada’s failure to meet its international legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the fundamental human rights of women. To date, Canada has not made an effective response to these serious and significant findings by expert human rights bodies.We remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly sets out a framework for states to effectively ensure the rights of Indigenous women:
Article 21(2): States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.
Article 22(2): States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
We, the undersigned groups, continue to strongly advocate for a national public inquiry into the hundreds of murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls in Canada , to address the service, socio-economic and human rights gaps, and make concrete and specific recommendations to end violence against Indigenous girls and women at a national level.Moving Forward

Although members of this coalition were shut out of the Inquiry process, we continue to meet regularly to discuss how to move forward in order to support the families, and to pursue justice for the missing and murdered women. We are not going anywhere, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with you on this important issue. We will be pursuing justice with or without you, and we certainly hope that you choose to work with us.Minister Anton, it is absolutely imperative that you work collaboratively with the families and impacted communities to make the issue of justice for the missing and murdered women one of your top priorities as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Given the urgency of this issue, we request a meeting at your earliest convenience so that we can discuss how to move forward in addressing the violence against disadvantaged and marginalized women and girls in British Columbia. Please contact Don Bain, Executive Director at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, to set up a meeting time (604) 684-0231.Yours truly,
Aboriginal Front Door Society
Amnesty International Canada
Atira Women’s Resource Society
B.C. Assembly of First Nations
B.C. Civil Liberties Association
BC Native Women’s Association
Battered Women’s Support Services
Butterflies in Spirit
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
Ending Violence Association British Columbia
February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee
Lookout Emergency Aid Society
Justice for Girls
PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society
PHS Community Services Society
Pivot Legal Society
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
Union Gospel Mission
West Coast LEAF
WISH Drop-In Centre Society

February 14th in Toronto – Ceremony as an Act of Sovereignty

February 14th in Toronto – Ceremony as an Act of Sovereignty

by Audrey Huntley

Audrey is of mixed settler (German/Scottish/Irish) and Indigenous (Anishnawbe) ancestry

No More Silence, a group founded in 2004 of allies and Indigenous women that aims to develop an inter/national network to support the work being done by activists, academics, researchers, agencies and communities to stop the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women, held Toronto’s 1st Annual February 14th Memorial for Missing and Murdered women in 2006. The Picton trial had just begun a month earlier and we had an urgent need to express our solidarity with the community of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the family members of the women killed on the farm.

Our first call out stated: “On February 14th we will come together in solidarity with the women who started this vigil 15 years ago in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and with the marches and rallies that will be taking place across this land. We stand in defense of our lives and to demonstrate against the complicity of the state in the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women and the impunity of state institutions and actors (police, RCMP, coroners’ offices, the courts, and an indifferent federal government) that prevents justice for all Indigenous peoples. “

We choose to come together at police headquarters in order to highlight the impunity that Canada affords killers of poor and marginalized women – women not deemed worthy of state protection and Indigenous women targets of the genocidal policies inherent to a settler state. We do not ask for the state’s permission in doing so and instead honour the sovereignty of the Indigenous peoples that have shared the caretaking responsibilities of this land for thousands of years. Family members are given the opportunity to share and Wanda Whitebird (Bear Clan and member of the Mi’kmag Nation) leads the community in a strawberry and water ceremony. No More Silence chooses to practice ceremony in honouring our missing sisters both as an act of love for those who are gone and those who remain behind to mourn as well as an assertion of sovereignty. It is the group’s understanding that settler violence against Indigenous women is inherent to ongoing colonization and land theft. Indigenous women who are at the centre of our communities have always presented an obstacle to the colonial project as evidenced currently in their leadership of Idle No More.

Coming together as allies and Indigenous women No More Silence seeks to practice a decolonizing solidarity that we believe will be fundamental in shifting the power dynamics governing this land. This is why we look to ancient wisdoms such as the teachings of the Three Sisters in shaping how we work together for a better future – one that will honour all our relations and protect our mother – the land.

~ The Three Sisters ~

Once, Native people of this land were starving.

Then Three Sky Sisters came to live with them: Corn, Squash and Bean

Corn stood tall and straight in the fields around the village. Squash laid herself at Corn’s feet and protected her sister by keeping the soil moist. The third Sister, Bean, could make her own nourishment from the soil. But she was so weak and thin she could not support herself. So corn supported Bean as she grew up towards the sun, and soon they were all growing strongly together.

The people learned not only to plant the Three Sisters in the same soil, but also to work together and support each other.


Eight years later in 2013 No More Silence is joined by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Sistering and Camp Sis in our organizing. NaMeRes (Native Men’s Residence) staff will provide the food, cook and serve the feast following the ceremony.

Numerous Toronto organizations and agencies have endorsed the event including: Native Women’s Resource Centre, Anduhyaun Native Women’s Shelter, Aboriginal Student Association at York (ASAY), Ontario Aboriginal HIV Strategy, Ontario Federation of Labour, International Women’s Day Toronto Committee, Muskrat Magazine, Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape (TTRC/MWAR), Gathering Weavers, Christian Peacemaker Teams- Aboriginal Justice Team, Canadian Chiapanecas Justice for Women, Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), Metro Action Committee Against Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC), Indigenous Sovereignty and Solidarity Network, The Redwood Shelter, CUPE local 1281, Women and Gender Studies Institute at U of T (WGSI), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), International Socialists, Health for All, Toronto New Socialists, Noone Is Illegal (NOII), Communist Party of Canada, Centre for Women and Trans at U of T CWTP, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, OPIRG Toronto and Students against Israeli Apartheid U of T, Educators for Peace and Justice (EPJ) & Rank and File Education Workers of Toronto (REWT), Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Rising Tide, United Jewish People’s Order-Toronto and the UJPO Social Justice Committee, Elementary School Teachers of Toronto (ETT), Sam Ginden Chair in Social Justice and Democracy Ryerson University.

Photographs by John Bonnar, Blogger and Podcaster at Rabble.ca

Sixteen cities and communities are now confirmed for Feb 14th Women’s Memorial Marches

National Co-ordination

22nd Annual Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March

22nd Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March – Downtown Eastside Vancouver

Our team is preparing for the 22nd Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March Downtown Eastside Vancouver. With one heart we connect with at least eleven other Women’s Memorial Marches being held across the land. Established to remember and mourn women who are missing and women who have been murdered as a result of violence and oppression. We ask that you join us this Feb. 14th at 11 am at Hastings and Main in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory to honour their lives and support the families who are missing their loved ones.

Thursday Feb 14th

March starts at noon from Carnegie (Main and Hastings)

* Please NOTE that this year the march starts one hour earlier *

The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family. Out of this sense of hopelessness and anger came an annual march on Valentine’s Day to express compassion, community, and caring for all women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. Twenty two years later, the women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women.

On Thursday Feb 14th 2013, we will gather at 11 am at the Carnegie Community Centre Theatre, 401 Main Street (corner Hastings, Vancouver) where family members speak in remembrance. Given space constraints, we ask the broader public to join us at noon, when the march takes to the streets and proceeds through the Downtown Eastside, with stops to commemorate where women were last seen or found; speeches by community activists at the court house; a healing circle at Oppenheimer Park around 2:30; and finally a community feast at the Japanese Language Hall.

Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. This year, the Women’s Memorial March occurs in the context of the provincial missing women’s inquiry, which marginalized the voices and experiences of DTES residents, Indigenous communities, and women’s groups. Women continue to go missing or be murdered with no action from any level of government to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism. We are calling for a national public inquiry and continue to seek justice internationally with submissions at the level of the UN.

This event is organized and led by women in the DTES because women – especially Indigenous women – face physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence on a daily basis. The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is an opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice.

* SUPPORT THE WOMEN’S MEMORIAL MARCH

There are many ways to support the Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March:

1) Spread the word and join us (all genders welcome) to the Feb 14th march. We respectfully ask that you please do not bring your banners, flags, or leaflets as the Women’s Memorial March carries five banners only to honour the women.

2) Plan a memorial march in your community. Last year, memorial marches were held in approximately ten other cities and communities. If you are organizing a memorial march please email us the details at [email protected] so we can maintain
communication, compile the information on our website, and build strength in our coordinated efforts.

3) If you want to help volunteer (setup, cleanup, serving food etc) on the day of and can commit to 2-hour shifts between 8 am and 6 pm, please email [email protected]

Thank you all for your support and commitment, Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee
Website:http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/
Phone: 604 665 3005
Email: [email protected](Committee Chair Marlene George)
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/events/488831777821558/?fref=ts