By Suzanne Wilton, Calgary Herald
CALGARY – Tears of both grief and joy were shed Sunday as a crowd about 300-strong gathered for an emotional march to honour the murdered and missing women of southern Alberta.
“The tears of the heart are sometimes very painful. We can learn to live with them but they don’t leave us,” said a native elder who cried as he said a prayer to launch the second-annual local Valentine’s Day Memorial March.
Led by a banner bearing 3,000 names of missing or murdered women, the march made its way from the Scarboro Church in the southwest, down 17th Avenue to 14th Street S.W., where participants lined the sidewalks and lingered for several minutes, waving to motorists who honked in support of the cause.
Some carried placards with photos of their dead loved ones while others held paper cut-out hearts with their names written on them.
For Dolores Pepper, events like the Valentine’s Day march are a chance to honour the daughter she lost as well as reignite interest in her still unsolved murder. Jennifer Joyes was 17 when she was killed in 1991, her body discarded and not found for several months.
“(These events) bring up my hope, my prayers. I feel like maybe . . . it will jog someone’s memory,” said Pepper.
Pepper was joined by a large family contingent, including several grandchildren. They were among a diverse crowd, which included a group who travelled by bus from the Siksika reserve east of Calgary.
“I’m dumbfounded with the amount of people who turned out,” said an emotional Suzanne Dzus.
Dzus previously participated in memorial marches in Edmonton and in Vancouver, where the event began 19 years ago after the brutal murder of an aboriginal woman.
But when she moved to Calgary, she realized there wasn’t an event here, so she set out to organize one and is surprised at how quickly it’s grown.
“We’ve had this amazing response. This is heartwarming to know at least there are a whole group of people who really care.”
As someone of aboriginal descent, Dzus said the majority of women in her family have experienced violence in one form or another.
But she said violence against women knows no boundaries.
“It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, black or white or Indian, although I will say that if you are indigenous, you are more likely to be targeted as a victim of violence,” said Dzus.
Shelley Long Time Squirrel can certainly attest to that. She’s lost four women in her life to murder, three of them killed on downtown Calgary streets and one whose remains were found on serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm near Vancouver.
“I want them to be remembered,” said Long Time Squirrel.
“They’re missed and loved so much.”
Judy Trimble walked in memory of her daughter Cara Ellis, whose remains were also found on Pickton’s farm in 2004.
“It has been rough going ever since,” said Trimble, who was joined by son Steven Ellis and his wife Lori-Ann.
“I’m hoping she’s smiling down on us right now.”
Trimble said it gives her comfort to march with others who’ve experienced a similar loss. But she also wants to ensure that people don’t forget about women like Cara, who spent five years on a missing person’s list before police took seriously her disappearance off downtown Vancouver’s east-side streets.
“I hope they receive the message that they cannot drive by and let it keep going. This abuse and violence has to stop.”