April 13, 2024 3 min read


Every February on and around Valentine’s Day, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people organize marches for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) across the country.

The first Women’s Memorial March started in Vancouver in 1992 after a shíshálh Nation woman and mother — whose name isn’t used out of respect for the family — was found murdered.

“We shouldn’t have people missing and murdered in our country,” said Kelly White one of the founding committee members of Vancouver’s march. “We invite everyone to cherish sacredness of life for our women and girls, men and boys.”

Now in its 33rd year, the Women’s Memorial March takes place annually on Valentine’s Day starting each year at the corner of Main Street and East Hastings Street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Over a thousand people were present at the march, singing the Women’s Warrior song as attendees marched through the neighbourhood, stopping at locations where Indigenous women were last seen or found.

“I had friends and family who went missing down here, especially in the ’80s,” said Anne Innes who has been attending the marches for years. “It means a lot that they’re getting recognized, its good to see everyone down here, especially family.

“It’s really hard to see a lot of families go through grief and loss, its heartbreaking. But being here today means a lot.”

The event serves as a coming together — red ribbon skirts are made annually for families of MMIWG. The march itself is a space to remember those lost and bring attention to a rampant problem.

According to the Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous women make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims and 11 per cent of missing women, yet Indigenous people make up only five per cent of the population of Canada.

“The pervasiveness of violence against women must be addressed and the cycle of violence must end,” B.C. Premier David Eby said in a statement.

“We know there is much more work to be done. We are committed to listening, taking action, and working with Indigenous women and others,” he added. “Today, I encourage all British Columbians to join those honouring the murdered and missing, and to join in our call to end violence against women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people.”

When the MMIWG Inquiry released its final report in 2019, its work 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.”

Ten-year-old Sariah Jacobs-Greene is one of the flower girls leading this years march. It’s her job to, among others, to place a flower at each place the march stops to mark where an Indigenous woman went missing or was found.

“There are so many women and girls that are suffering,” she said. “There are so many people out there who won’t look, who won’t care … but when there’s a white person missing or non-Native they’ll look for them right away.”

Jacobs-Greene said events like these heal her heart, she sees everyone who attended Wednesday’s march as people who care.

Victoria hosted its Stolen Sisters Memorial March on Saturday, inspired by the Women’s Memorial March. Almost 1,000 people showed up to the march that saw community members march down Pandora Avenue to the B.C. legislature.

“It’s also to hold space for those of us who are mourning, left in limbo or still searching,” said Lisa deWit, a member of Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Laksilyu clan, who is part of Victoria’s march committee. “It’s an opportunity to remind greater society as a whole that this issue is still present.

“Perhaps it inspires others to get curious, to understand the systems that are contributing to our women disappearing and being murdered — (the MMIWG crisis) is more than just stats.”

Anna Wharton
Anna Wharton

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