Eagles soar above Vancouver march for murdered and missing women

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      Eagles soared above the skies of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside during the 19th annual march held this afternoon (February 14) to commemorate murdered and missing women, many of whom are First Nations women.

      The circling flight of the winged creatures throughout most of the event elicited cheers from the multitude of people who showed up to honour the memories of these women.

      Aboriginal activist Jennifer Allan explained to the Straight that the appearance of the eagles symbolize that prayers for the women who fell victims to violence will be brought up to the gods above.

      In a previous interview, First Nations activist Gladys Radek noted that Olympic security officials initially opposed the holding the march. Radek also recalled that police were told that the event would push through whether they like it or not.

      At the side of the Carnegie Community Centre on Hastings Street, community activist Don Larson and his colleagues handed out soup and bread. Larson also brought 125 pink carnations to give to women, telling the Straight that he’s been doing this for the last 17 years. “The flowers are for the ladies and it’s Valentine’s Day,” he said.

      Loretta, a five-month-old baby, was probably the youngest in the crowd. She was carried in a front pouch by her mother Debbie Krull, a Cree Native  who has been attending the march for a number of years.

      An almost tearful Krull told the Straight that the event is part of a “healing process” for her, but she did not elaborate.

      Chilean Canadian Magnolia Villalobos came with her granddaughter in a stroller. A women’s rights and labour advocate, Villabos told the Straight that it’s shame that no public inquiry has been called to look into deeper issues surrounding the killing and disappearance of women.

      Elected federal and provincial politicians were also in attendance. NDP Vancouver-Kensington MLA Mable Elmore recalled to the Straight that the yearly march, which she started attending since the 1990s, formed part of her initial education as an activist.

      The march started from the corner and Main and Hastings Street toward the north, passing by Gastown, and returning to its point of origin.

      First Nations activist Kat Norris told the Straight that this year’s march looks like the largest ever.

      Estimates of the crowd greatly varied, with a police officer saying it was in the range between 500 to 1,000, “but no more than 1,000”.

      An Olympic legal observer said there could have been 5,000 people. One participant offered another number: 3,000. At the beginning of the march, the parade stretched more than two city blocks.



      Andre Beaucage

      Feb 14, 2010 at 10:13pm

      Here is some video of the march:

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      Feb 14, 2010 at 10:13pm

      The rally was winding down, so we headed back towards home, traveling through China Town where a Chinese New Year’s celebration was simultaneously occurring. Emotions frayed from having just attended a memorial for hundreds of missing and murdered women across this nation, we end up colliding with crowds of shopping tourists and celebrating Chinese Canadians.
      As we picked our way through the festivities, we happened to come across our illustrious mayor, Gregor Robertson. Gregor was decked out in his Chinese New Years attire, and giving his full support to the voters and tax payers with the potential to advance his political career and agenda. How he can attend this event and abstain from the other is no mystery. The voting and financial power of the Chinese Canadian community obviously overshadows that of the Native Canadians and other women lost and murdered in the DTES.
      Angered by this slight to my social conscience, I approached our Mayor to throw a question his way, “Mayor Robertson, why aren’t you showing your support for the murdered and missing women of the DTES today?!” To this he quickly responded, “I’m heading there now, to Oppenheimer Park,” a somewhat fractured smile, stretched across his face. I decided to leave it at that, partly due to the sudden nature of the encounter and my being flustered over the issues at hand, unable to formulate a response that I could be proud of. So instead of continuing the dialogue, we passed each other on the sidewalk, moving in opposite directions, in more ways than one.
      While I do give Mayor Gregor credit for the fact that he is actually attending the Vigil, I can’t help but think that when I had left, the vigil’s numbers had depleted by nearly half, following a passionate and heart wrenching series of speeches in front of Vancouver's DTES Police Station. This spot was chosen by the organizers to insure that our incompetent police force would finally get the message and begin to work for all citizens, be they wealthy taxpayers or the most vulnerable amongst us. This had been the climax of the entire event. I wonder; if it had been hundreds of middle class or rich women murdered and missing, would the ineptitude and Johnny-come-lately attitude of both our police force and our elected officials have even been a factor in this tragedy? On that issue, I don’t think I need to answer my own question; it’s too obvious. Mayor Robertson, like all those to have come before, has revealed that his priorities, and those of the moneyed interest that run this City, haven't shifted or skipped a beat, even with the international media spotlight being provided by the 2010 Corporate Games.
      Gregor will arrive at the tail end, when the numbers are depleted, and like our infamous Prime Minister, Herr Harper and our Auctioneer Premier, Gordon “Red Mittens” Campbell, be there at the right moment, for that critical photo op. Politicians come and go; their promises and empty rhetoric echo through the streets of the City and then disappear into the sea of collective apathy and greed that keeps this flawed system running. Wake up Canada! It’s time we rose from our apathy induced slumber and began to care for our neighbors. It’s time we shelved our collective narcissism, and turned this ship of self indulgence around. We should be better citizens than we are. The time has come to react, before it’s too late, before we succumb to our baser natures and leave all hope behind. Truth before lies! Morality before greed! Not only accountability, but action is required for the absent voices that are no longer to be heard in our downtown streets and across our fractured nation.


      Feb 15, 2010 at 12:26am

      Very well stated and thank you for sharing. I was there and noticed a number of politicians who march the entire length and stayed for the speeches.They where there knowing this is about the issues and not about them. Perhaps this major will be embarrassed for his choices, and support the request for a full public inquiry.

      Kat Norris

      Feb 15, 2010 at 12:59am

      I was so uplifted at such a great turn-out of supporters from all nations, all walks of life. Normally, I wouldn't make mention that Libby Davies was there & has attended most years, were it not for discovering Gregoire R, most important official of our city, ignored the march & what it stands for. This message goes into our memory base. It proves that the almighty dollar & a power base is more important than any cause, especially if it concerns the poor, the homeless and issues pertaining to Indigenous women.

      After leaving the Japanese Hall where we held the feast, I caught the bus to take my sister and children to catch up to the Horseshoe Bay Express. We walked up Seymour and the mass of people in line to shop for Olympic products, and the crowd coming our way was so massive and pushy, it seemed to take forever to get up to Georgia.. we turned right only to bump into another wall of people.. & the bus was RIGHT THERE. Before we could get through the crowd, it took off. So they had to wait to catch the later ferry.

      I was going to say, I can't wait til it's over but it will never be over, with the massive debt already in play .. but the loss of lands, for example Eagle Ridge bluffs will forever change the landscape and homes of the migratory wildlife, new infrastructure, we will be paying for without reaping it's benefits.

      It was a massive rally, yet the first item on the news was the finally won first gold medal, second item, Chinese New Year Celebration.. no where did the women's march seem to deserve a mention. Like I said, money and power talks.

      Robert C

      Feb 15, 2010 at 6:55am

      Great words RMacArthur! I too was very dismayed to see that that our mayor did not make an appearance at the beginning of the march, or when we had all gathered at the VPD. I am of the opinion that our leaders don't care about the missing women of the DTES.
      I also think it was in poor taste for what appears to be two high ranking police officers standing on the roof of the VPD looking down on the marchers. Shame.


      Feb 15, 2010 at 10:25am

      It is a pleasure to read posts that are thought our, have a valuable purpose, and express the issue clearly . Well done, robert, norris, macartrhur

      Gladys Radek

      Feb 15, 2010 at 11:12am

      Yes! The Women's Memorial March was huge! The best part of it for me was seeing and talking to all the family members who are missing there loved ones. We had families from across the nation standing in solidarity. Thank you to all those who traveled great distances to honor our beautiful women. People from all walks of life joined us to celebrate these womens lives.
      As for the mayor, Gregor Robertson, it wasn't a shock to us that he chose not to be there. As one of the organisers for this event we know that his office was aware of it and he chose to go where the money went. What a surprise. We have tried on several occasions to adddress some of the issues around the missing and murdered women, such as the public inquiry, poverty, homelessness and taking away the womens and children programs, the Aboriginal Mother's Center Society and much more. He is notorious, in my eyes, to come to our meetings to address these issues and nod his head, yes I agree, and then turn around and disregard any of the promises he had made to improve our situations. Typical false promises of a politician. Gregor is not a people person, he is a money monger. I would love to see him put his money where his mouth is when dealing with the issues in the Downtown Eastside. Start stepping up to the plate. If he was to deal with the issues at hand the City of Vancouver could be a world class city. Start looking after the people and he might be elected again. At the rate he is going now, highly unlikely.
      I also think about the day I was at city hall to talk about the B2 motion regarding the public inquiry in the deaths of the women in the Downtown Eastside.
      We were told to be there at 10:00 a.m. to address this issue. There were three of us who sat there and watched a room full of heavy weight men who were promoting a venue of Ultimate Fighting. We sat there and listened to these burly men for 4 hours whing about wanting to have this match held in Vancouver at GM place. I found it mind boggling that the counselors and the media were there promoting this event when, in fact, Ultimate fighting is banned and illegal in BC. The City of Vancouver passed their motion unanimously after 4 hours of deliberations. The room was packed to the rafters with all these burly men.
      Next on the agenda was the public inquiry. Motion passed for ultimate fighting and everyone cleared the room. There were three of us left the and other than Ellen Woodsworth, who is in total support of basic human rights of women, the counselors then worried about what time they were going to have lunch. They gave us 20 minutes to express our feeling about the plight of our women. Each counselor passed the motion without giving it any thought or conversation around the issues. They tried to cut off by telling us the motion was passed. Yet they hadn't really listened. For the record the mayor did not attend at this time. Shame!

      Gladys Radek Co-founder of Walk4Justice

      Angela Marie MacDougall

      Feb 15, 2010 at 11:19am

      Violence against women is the most pressing issue of our time. In BC, women make up 52% of the population and 1 in 3 women is affected by violence and abuse. Last year there were over 10,000 incidents of domestic violence reported and presently there are 667 transition house beds available provincially. There are a reported 137 murdered and missing Indigenous women in BC. In Vancouver, 64 women are reported murdered or missing.

      Congratulations to the women leaders from the downtown eastside, community and women's organizations who make up the 19th Annual February 14th Women's Memorial March Planning Committee, who have been organizing the march for the past 19 years on behalf of the women and the community.

      A truly inspired event. At the beginning in Carnegie Community Centre Theatre when a young girl spoke about her Mother, who is missing... poignant and so very powerful...a moment when we were at the intersection at Hastings and Carrall when we saw the Eagles overhead...the cheering, the drumming, the significance...Moments I will never forget.

      Sylvia Harvey

      Feb 15, 2010 at 2:33pm

      How inspiring to those of us who have had to watch from a distance and send our prayers up to the creator with the hope that they would sustain our sisters and their families in their vigil of sorrow - how very inspiring to know that the eagles were there listening and carrying those prayers up on behalf of us all, drawing us together all across this land with one heart, one mind, one determination to end the violence.
      It reminds me that there is no insignificant gesture made in the service of love. The creator honours all.

      Tim Sywyk

      Feb 15, 2010 at 7:13pm

      I hope your journey went well and by reports it is apparent the message has been taken to the highest power.