Hundreds made their way through downtown Victoria on Saturday afternoon for the annual Stolen Sisters Memorial March to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
The march, which first started in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, is now held across the country and is in its 13th year in Victoria.
“It grants an opportunity for our communities to come together and really be held by each other in our grief,” said Emma Allan, a march organizer. “Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit people and trans people go missing and are murdered at a disproportionate rate compared to Canadians.”
A 2014 RCMP report said Indigenous women and girls make up 4.3 per cent of the total female population in Canada. They make up 11.3 per cent of the murdered and missing cases.
Between 1980 and 2012, the report said a total of 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were homicide victims and 164 are missing.
Last year, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report which revealed that “persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
The report calls for transformative legal and social changes and delivers 231 individual calls for justice. It also includes testimony from family members and survivors of violence.
Hundreds have gathered outside of Our Place Society downtown for the Stolen Sisters Memorial March in honour of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people who have gone missing and have been murdered. #MMIWG #yyj @VictoriaNews pic.twitter.com/o3iW9NjBqP
— Shalu Mehta (@ShaluMehta32) February 15, 2020
Monica Jones, an organizer with the Cowichan Missing and Murdered Women, Men and Children non-profit society, was at the march with two signs. One was of her sister, 27-year-old Catherine Teresa Joe who went missing from Duncan in 1977 and was later found brutally murdered.
Jones’ other sign had four posters on it. Three posters were of missing men Ian Henry, Desmond Peter and Everett Russell Jones. The fourth was Teresa Jones who went missing and was found murdered – her killer was caught.
“We’ve been just putting posters up all over the place and searching all over Vancouver Island,” Jones said. “We’re just going to keep going until we find them.”
Allan acknowledged the solidarity action that has taken place throughout Victoria and across the country over the last week in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs but said Saturday’s march was one for remembrance and serves as a memorial.
“Our lives, our grief is only as political as our lands are,” Allan said. “But today, that politics is for nobody but the family members, friends and invited speakers.”
A statement on the Stolen Sisters Memorial March Facebook page said the march supports the Indigenous youth who were at the B.C. Legislature.
“The health and safety of Indigenous women is directly linked to the health and safety of our land,” the statement said.