Monday, February 13, 2017

February 14th, 2017 marks the date of the 27th Annual Women’s Memorial March

February 14th, 2017 marks the date of the 27th Annual Women’s Memorial March. The March is held on Valentine’s Day to honour the memory of all women from the Downtown Eastside who have died due to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence. The February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee was founded when a woman was found murdered on Powell Street in 1991. For 27 years, the Committee has been a leading voice on the issue of violence against Indigenous women and has raised local, national, and international attention. Despite a national inquiry being launched on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the reality on the ground in the Downtown Eastside has not changed.

From the website:
February 11, 2011. VANCOUVER, Coast Salish Territories- “We are here to honour and remember the woman, and we are here because we are failing to protect women from the degradation of poverty and systemic exploitation, abuse and violence. We are here in sorrow and in anger because the violence continues each and every day and the list of missing and murdered women gets longer every year,”
Over the past year, approximately ten women in the Downtown Eastside have been murdered including Ashley Machisknic, a young Indigenous woman who was found in an alley behind the Regent hotel on September 15, 2010 and Carla Marie Smith, a sex-trade worker found brutally murdered on February 7, 2011. Indigenous girls have continuously relayed harrowing stories of drugging and sexual assault by sexual offender Martin Tremblay. In 2003, Tremblay was charged with 18 counts of sexual assault and administering a noxious substance to five Indigenous girls between the ages of 13 and 15. This year two women have been murdered by Tremblay. 17-year-old Martha Hernandez died from a lethal dose of drugs and alcohol inside Tremblay’s home in March 2010 and the same day 16-year-old Kayla Lalonde’s body was discovered near his home.
In the face of this unending violence, the Memorial March Committee is seeking standing at the provincial government’s controversial Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. “While the government has finally established an inquiry which we have demanded for years, we have not been consulted or involved in any meaningful way about the purpose or scope or terms of reference. We are seriously questioning the integrity of this inquiry as well as Commissioner Wally Oppal,” states Carol Martin, a victim services worker.
In Vancouver, friends and family members led by women move through the DTES, stopping at sites where women have died for ceremonies and laying roses in remembrance as well as offering prayers and medicines. Prior to the march, a press conference is being organized at 10:30 am in Carnegie. “The women we remember may not be with us today, but we cannot let their struggles be forgotten. Every life is precious and we continue to work for justice by sending a strong message that sexual violence will not be tolerated,” further states George.

"These women daily survive conditions that few of us could imagine, let alone endure."