Vancouver memorial march honours missing, murdered women

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      Hundreds of participants took part in a march around the Downtown Eastside in heavy rain to remember Vancouver's missing and murdered women.


      Aboriginal elders, community leaders and family members of murdered and missing women led the 20th annual women’s memorial march today (February 14) from Main and Hastings to various sites around the neighbourhood. March organizers carried red roses to mark sites where women were murdered, and yellow roses for missing women.

      According to Marlene George, the chair of women's memorial march organizing committee, 32 women from the Downtown Eastside are still missing.

      “We don’t know what’s happening with these investigations”¦but every year we come together to remember these women,” said George.

      In a press conference held before the march, organizers said that 10 women have been murdered or have gone missing from the Downtown Eastside in the last year.

      They also noted that while they feel there is progress being made to address violence against women in the community, they said there are still many “acts of extreme violence” occurring.

      Some of the women remembered today include Ashley Machiskinic, whose body was found in an alley behind the Regent hotel on September 15, 2010, and Carla Marie Smith, whose body was found in Burnaby on February 7, 2011.

      Machisknic’s cousin, Mona Woodward, believes the young woman’s death was a catalyst for the Sister Watch program that was recently launched.

      “I think it’s really sad that it had to happen, that someone has to die before there’s any changes,” Woodward told the Straight. “I’m very angry about that, I’m very frustrated - but at the same time, I’m really happy about the changes. So her death isn’t in vain.”

      The march came just days after Vancouver police announced charges under the Sister Watch program. Under the initiative, police are meeting regularly with women from the Downtown Eastside.

      Delannah Gail Bowen, who has been helping to organize the memorial march for seven years, said the root causes of violence against women need to be considered in order to address the issue.

      “For this issue to be addressed, we have to go to the heart of the problem, and the heart of the problem is the poverty, the heart of the problem is not having our voice heard,” said Bowen.

      “We have to look at the whole picture. Dealing with an issue when it gets to the crisis point means that it’ll always be at the crisis point, instead of going to the root of the issue,” she added.

      Organizers also criticized the terms of reference for the provincial missing women commission of inquiry as too narrow.

      “The terms of reference, between January 23rd 1997 and February 5, 2002, capture a point in time where we had a very prolific serial killer at play, however it does not capture the realities of many women that we know that have gone missing, and who were found murdered outside of that time frame,” said Angela MacDougall.

      The provincial inquiry, led by former attorney general Wally Oppal, will examine how police investigated the disappearances of women from the Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002, when Robert Pickton was arrested.

      The memorial march marked its 20th anniversary this year. Similar marches were held in at least 10 other cities across the country.



      Second Nation

      Feb 15, 2011 at 9:40am

      Too bad it was raining. Seriously though, that was a lot of rain on the weekend even for Vancouver!


      Feb 15, 2011 at 11:37am

      It's unfortunate these women didn't have this type, or volume, of support when they were alive, or not missing.

      Social Justice

      Feb 15, 2011 at 2:42pm

      These women did have support, love and care when they were alive. They were victimized, exploited and treated like disposable objects by the men that used their bodies for sex and by Pickton who killed them.

      Many girls enter the sex trade as teenagers, a high number were already sexually abused by the men in their lives, the men they should be safe with and from.

      The women of the DTES are loved by their families, cared about by the support people who try to help them not go down this path, or to get out. They are missed and every year, on February 14th and many other days, they are remembered and honoured.

      We could all learn something from the women of Italy right now, their petition states: "We are asking all women to defend the value of our dignity, and we are asking men: If not now, when?"

      let women protect themselves

      Feb 15, 2011 at 8:01pm

      One first step would be to allow sex trade workers to form unions and co-ops to protect themselves. Dana Larsen has the right idea.