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.
Many 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:
By Marlene George
In 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.
By Audrey Huntley
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.
By Sandra DeLaronde
I 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.
By Lorelei Williams
I’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.
By Danielle Boudreau
It 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.
By Raven Bowen
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.
By Native Youth Sexual Health Network
This 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.
By Maya Rolbin-Ghanie
…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.
By Rosa Elena Arteaga
I 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
Vancouver: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.