The Stolen Sisters Memorial March walked through the streets of Victoria Saturday to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. It was not a protest, said organizers, it was a memorial.
The march is an annual event, first started in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, to remember, honour and grieve for the missing or murdered Indigenous women and their families.
“We are in our twelfth year now and the numbers of women going missing and murdered is not decreasing. In society Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people are seen as less than. This is one of the factors as to why this is happening to our women and why we come here together today and stand in solidarity,” said Nancy Kinyewakan. “We stand here and form circles in unity to recognize and bring awareness to what has happened and what is happening to our First Nations women and children.”
Indigenous women and girls make up 4.3 percent of the total female population in Canada but make up 11.3 percent of the murdered and missing cases.
A report released by the RCMP in 2014 said that between 1980 and 2012, a total of 1,181 Indigenous women and girls were murdered or went missing. Of those, 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were homicide victims and 164 are missing.
“Violence happens in spaces of lawlessness. How is it that Indigenous women and girls are in spaces of lawlessness in this land called Canada,” said Dr. Val Napoleon, professor of aboriginal justice and governance at UVic. “The essential work of today, all of us, is to re-build Indigenous law so that we can create safe and inclusive communities.”
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was launched by the federal government in 2016 to investigate the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and to give family members a chance to have their stories heard.
The final report with actionable solutions and recommendations for change is expected to be submitted to the federal government by April 30.
“We come together to make change within the systems in our society – the justice system, the education system, the child welfare system, the foster care system – because almost all of us are survivors,” said Kinyewakan. “Over the years, I’ve had my voice oppressed and it took me a long time to find my voice but I stand here today to use my voice to support this important issue.”
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