Violence against women targeted as 21st annual memorial march begins in Vancouver
As the 21st annual women’s memorial march is set to begin this afternoon, organizers say they are still searching for action to address the ongoing problem of violence against women in the Downtown Eastside community.
Jessica Wood, an organizer with the February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March, noted the event is held annually on Valentine’s Day to honour the memory of women who have died or gone missing from the Downtown Eastside due to violence or abuse.
“Unfortunately, women continue to go missing or be murdered with little to no action from any level of government to address these tragedies, or the systemic nature of the gendered violence, poverty, racism or colonialism that we are subjected to,” claimed Wood.
Wood described violence against women in the Downtown Eastside community as having gone from covert to overt.
“We don’t have to go on a midnight ride to Coquitlam,” she said. “We’re thrown out of windows here, now.”
Organizers noted that in the fall of 2011, a woman fell to her death from the Regent Hotel on East Hastings Street. Her death came one year and one day after the fatal fall of another woman, Ashley Machiskinic.
Organizer Marlene George said members of the community are pushing for bars to be installed on the windows of all single-room occupancy hotels in the area, to prevent similar deaths.
During a press conference in advance of the memorial march today, organizers also panned the provincial missing women inquiry process. George said they hold “very little hope” that the inquiry will result in significant changes to the way investigations of missing and murdered women are conducted.
“We know that women are continuing to go missing all across this country, that things have to change at the national level,” said George. “But we need to be sure that we’re able to have our questions answered,and we’re on the outside of that inquiry.”
Wood said members of the community want to see more than “non-binding recommendations” result from the inquiry.
“The only reason that there’s any attention brought to this case is because of the activism happening on the Downtown Eastside,” claimed Wood. “The only reason there’s an inquiry is because we demanded one for so long.”
“The challenge now is they’ve taken what should be an avenue of justice and honour for these women to make systemic change, and what has happened now is a miscarriage of justice.”
Carol Martin, another organizer of the annual march, called the issue of missing and murdered women “a real crisis here in Canada”.
“Twenty-one years,” she said. “Is there anyone out there listening? Is there anyone paying attention to what is happening to our women?”
Today’s march in Vancouver coincides with similar memorial events taking place across the country. The march, beginning at 1 p.m. at Main and Hastings Streets, will include ceremonies at locations in the neighbourhood where women have died.
“Women continue to go missing, women continue to suffer horrendous abuses on a daily basis,” said organizer Mona Woodward. “Today we want to honour those women and walk with the families to have a ceremony wherever they were seen last.”