Missing women’s families still looking for answers at 23rd annual memorial march


A bond unites the women who addressed the media this morning at the Carnegie Community Centre in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

It’s a pledge to remember always.

It’s a promise to continue looking for answers.

In the lead-up to the annual women’s memorial march today (February 14), they talked about loved ones who have fallen to violence.

There was Lorelei Williams, a Skatin Nation woman whose family has been deeply affected by savagery against women.

Williams’s cousin Tanya Holyk was among the victims of convicted mass murderer Robert William Pickton. Holyk disappeared in 1996, and her DNA was found in Pickton’s farm.

Williams’s aunt Belinda Williams went missing in 1978. It’s only recently that the family started receiving tips about the woman.

“We’re looking for more tips. This is 36 years ago, and these tips just surfaced,” Williams said.

There was Michele Pineault. Her daughter Stephanie Lane went missing in 1997. She was 20 at the time. She would later turn out to be the youngest of Pickton’s victims.

“It would be nice to say that we’ve changed, and that this is not happening but every month, we hear about another young girl being murdered,” Pineault said.

There was Marlene George, one of the organizers of the annual memorial march, now on its 23rd year.

George spoke on behalf of the family of Angeline Pete, who was last seen in 2011 boarding a SeaBus bound for her home in North Vancouver.

“Her family wants to know what happened with their daughter. Where is she?” George said.

According to George, Pete didn’t just walk away.

“She’s missing as are other many women in this country, and families want answers. They’re hurting,” George said.

This year’s march, an event that started in 1991 in Vancouver, will be the 18th for George.

“We’re speaking for the women that cannot speak, that are missing and murdered, the ones that have no voice now,” George said.

According to the website dedicated to the annual memorial march, over “3000 women are known to have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since the 1970s”.

The Native Women's Association of Canada has documented over 582 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women and girls across the nation.

Following a fact-finding mission in Canada in 2013, James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

It’s a call that has been out there for a long time, one that was again reiterated in this morning’s press conference.

Mona Woodward said: “All of the systemic issues and gender biases that aboriginal women in particular come into contact with and deal with on a daily basis, it’s still happening in this community.”

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RIP to the ladies
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