Supporters share stories about love and loss of aboriginal women
Activists from across Calgary are seeking justice for Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women. Around 200 women, men and children marched down 17th Avenue to remember those women, and advocated to make the issue a national priority.
Ethel Stonechild came to the march with four of her young grandchildren. She wanted to remember her sister Margaret, whom Stonechild said was killed in a murder-suicide in 1979, at the age of 18.
"I definitely think of her and know that she lived, and that she was a big part of our lives," Stonechild said. "I want to be able to keep my girls safe."
In a report released last year, the RCMP found that indigenous women are over-represented in Canadian homicide numbers. While only four per cent of Canada's female population is indigenous, indigenous women are the victims of 16 per cent of female homicides. The report also stated that they are also almost three times more likely to be victims of violence than other non-indigenous women.
The RCMP report accounted for nearly 1,200 missing and murdered women. Chantal Chagnon, hostof the memorial march and a longtime activist for indigenous women's rights, said the report only addressed part of the issue.
"That's not even taking into account the women who are dismissed for living high-risk lifestyles, or the drug overdoses, or the suicides," she said. "We're not talking about those numbers, and we need to realize that the 1,200 is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more going on behind the scenes."
That's why Chagnon got involved in the Women's Memorial March — both to help those like Ethel Stonechild commemorate those already lost, and to try to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.
"It's so important that we understand that the women who have left us, they're at peace," she told thecrowd gathered at Scarboro United Church. "It's their families who are left to pick up the pieces and to heal. It's our job to give them a voice and bring justice to their families."
The Women's Memorial March began in Vancouver in 1992, and has now spread to other cities across Canada. It has been held in Calgary every Valentine's Day for the last seven years.
Two weeks after the march, on Feb. 27, Canada's first ever national roundtable discussion on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women began in Ottawa with politicians, community leaders and the families of victims in attendance. According to a CTV report, several First Nations representatives left the talks frustrated by the lack of progress, especially toward a national inquiry.
- By MADISON FARKAS