February 12, 2021 - No. 5

Participate in the  February 14
Women's Memorial Marches!

• Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls! End the Violence! 

Hold the Canadian Government to Account for Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls 

Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls! End the Violence!

Women's memorial events will be held on Valentine's Day in cities across the country to demand justice for Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or have gone missing, and to get the government to take measures to end the violence. The marches began in 1992 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to demand that action be taken following the murder of a Coast Salish woman whose death was met with indifference from the authorities and the media.

Today, people from all walks of life are demanding justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and opposing all forms of violence against women. Violence against women has been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic, as the isolation imposed on everyone renders them all the more vulnerable.

The persistence of Indigenous women and peoples in asserting their right to be is an inspiration to all, especially their insistence on defining what it is they need and not permitting others to define what is acceptable.

Workers' Forum calls on workers across Canada to join the marches, virtual meetings and other events of the 30th annual Women's Memorial March.

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Hold the Canadian Government to Account for Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls

February 14, 2014. Women's Memorial March, Vancouver.

Across Canada on February 14, Indigenous people and Canadians from all walks of life join families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls to remember their names, honour their spirits and call for the end to the state-organized violence and brutality that targets Indigenous women and girls.

The first Women's Memorial March was organized by the women of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on February 14, 1992 on unceded Salish territory, as a vigil for an Indigenous woman following her brutal murder. Since then, the women of the Downtown Eastside, led by Indigenous women and girls, have organized an annual commemoration and march. Over the years the events have expanded to all parts of Canada and to some cities in the U.S. The organizers point out that the memorial events are organized to highlight the "physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence, that women, particularly Indigenous women and girls face on a daily basis" and note that the February 14th Women's Memorial March is an "opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice." The scale of this genocide against Indigenous women and girls can be measured by the fact that since 1992 there have been close to 1,000 women and girls who have been murdered or gone missing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside alone.

Over the years various Indigenous organizations and human rights groups, as well as the UN Human Rights Committee, have repeatedly pointed out Canada's ongoing racist colonial abuse of Indigenous people, the brunt of which has targeted Indigenous women and girls. The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) initiated the Sisters in Spirit Campaign as part of its work to keep violence against Indigenous women and girls on the national agenda and to seek justice. NWAC developed a national database to track cases of violence and death of Indigenous women and conducted research which led to a report entitled What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative. Like many other reports, it made policy proposals including increasing funding for social programs for Indigenous communities, changes to the criminal justice system and others, the majority of which have been ignored.

From the beginning these marches have also been the occasion to call for a national inquiry into this violence and brutality, to identify the causes, to seek solutions and redress for the victims who now number more than 4,000 individuals.

For decades, successive Canadian governments have ignored this call. In a December 2014 interview on the CBC, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when asked about his government's plans to launch a public inquiry into MMIWG, infamously said "Um... it, it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest." Then the government of Justin Trudeau, under great pressure to make good on  their election promise to launch a national inquiry, announced plans to launch the inquiry on December 8, 2015. The inquiry began in 2016 and, after three years, on June 3, 2019, the report Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was tabled. The report concluded, among other things, that the murder and dissappearance of Indigenous women and girls is an expression of genocide against Indigenous peoples in Canada. Trudeau -- who claimed that "No relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples" -- pledged a "National Action Plan" in response to the National Inquiry's 231 "Calls for Justice." To date there has been no action plan. Meanwhile, the crimes against the Indigenous women and girls continue.

Final report of the National Inquiry is released in Ottawa. June 3, 2019.

As  it stands, the Memorial Marches continue and the Indigenous peoples and Canadians will continue to work together to end the genocide against Indigenous people and to hold Canada, its governments, institutions, police agencies and media accountable.

Red Dress Project

Red dress ceremony in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at Unist’ot’en Camp as RCMP prepare to invade and arrest land defenders. February 10, 2020.

The REDress Project launched by Metis artist Jaime Black in 2010 is another initiative created in response to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. In communities all over the country red dresses are hung in public places as a poignant reminder of the lives of Indigenous women and girls lost and to raise public opinion that a solution must be found.

 Women line the Highway of Tears in northern BC where so many women have been murdered or gone missing over many years. October 2016.

Red dresses on Parliament Hill demand action from newly elected Liberal government to end the violence against Indigenouse women and girls. November 3, 2015.

Walking With Our Sisters

Walking With Our Sisters is a commemorative art project created to honour murdered and missing Indigenous women. It includes 1810 pairs moccasin vamps (tops) plus 118 pairs of children’s vamps which have been made and donated by individuals. Each pair of vamps represents a missing or murdered Indigenous woman. The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women whose lives were cut short. The children’s vamps are dedicated to children who never returned home from residential schools.

Women's Memorial Marches 

(Photos: WF, UBCIC, P. Palmatar, Unistoten Camp, leveller, M. McKiver, Media Coop, M. Bush, S. Stromme, R. Young McCulloch, D. Taylor, C-L Paul, D. Bryant)

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(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)



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