Hundreds of Winnipeggers took to the streets on Valentine’s Day to honour Manitoba’s murdered and missing women.

The third annual Women’s Memorial March drew about 400 people to the downtown on Sunday.

Many wore a butterfly-shaped sign adorned with the name and picture of one of nearly 200 women murdered or missing in Manitoba since 1947.

Many others carried signs and photographs calling attention to the victims.

‘All of the women we are marching for were somebody’s loved ones.’— Lisa Michell, Women’s Memorial March committee chair

“Valentines Day is a significant day to spend with your loved ones, and so it is actually very appropriate to have it on this day because all of the women we are marching for were somebody’s loved ones,” said Lisa Michell, chair of the march’s local organizing committee.

The march originated in Vancouver 19 years ago and similar events were planned for Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Sudbury, London, Toronto, and Montreal.

Drawing attention to cases

Bernadette Smith’s sister Claudette Osborne has been missing for more than eighteen months.

And she says marches like last night’s help draw attention to the unsolved cases.

Lisa McFarland, who marched in the Winnipeg event in 2009 on behalf of her missing sister, Amber, helped organize the 2010 event.

“People come out to the march and they care about your issue and they just want to offer their support. There’s peace of mind when you have that number,” she said.

“It’s a good thing for the community and it’s nice not only to honour my sister, for me, but for all the women who have been violently murdered or are missing.”

Amber McFarland was last seen the night of Oct. 18, 2008, at a bar in her hometown of Portage la Prairie, about 70 kilometres west of Winnipeg. The RCMP are now treating the case as a homicide.

Bernadette Smith, whose sister, Claudette Osborne, has been missing for more than 18 months, said the march keeps that case and others like it in the spotlight.

“If somebody knows something out there, and we know somebody knows something — you just don’t go missing or be murdered without somebody knowing something — it’s got to be weighing on that person’s conscience,” she said.

“Get it off your chest, call Crime Stoppers. It’s anonymous. Help give some of those families answers.”

Claudette Osborne, who also goes by the name Penny, was last seen July 24, 2008, in the area of Selkirk Avenue and Charles Street, in Winnipeg’s North End. There has been no trace of her since then.