Marchers gather for annual B.C. event to honour missing, murdered women

Charlene Brunelle wipes her eye as she listens to people speak about loved ones they have lost, before the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The march is held to honour missing and murdered women and girls from the community with stops along the way to commemorate where women were last seen or found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckCharlene Brunelle wipes her eye as she listens to people speak about loved ones they have lost, before the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The march is held to honour missing and murdered women and girls from the community with stops along the way to commemorate where women were last seen or found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A woman raises her hands to the west before the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds gathered in the snow for the 30th annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C. to pay tribute to women who have gone missing and or been murdered in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckA woman raises her hands to the west before the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds gathered in the snow for the 30th annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C. to pay tribute to women who have gone missing and or been murdered in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Despite the hurt and emotional trauma of reliving her sister and niece’s death, Pauline Johnson said she has yet to miss a year of the Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, now in its 30th year.

Johnson was one of the hundreds of people who gathered in the snow for the annual march, which is held to honour and remember women lost to violence, abuse, poverty and systemic racism.

Johnson’s sister Rose Marie Johnson died in 1980, and her death has been linked to a man who was convicted of another death in a separate incident.

Charlene Kerr, Johnson’s niece, was stabbed to death in the Lamplighter Hotel in the 1980s.

“There should be some change. It’s disheartening that there isn’t,” she said, adding that there needs to be more awareness of the violence Indigenous women and men face.

Johnson said little has been done to properly investigate the disproportionate amount of Indigenous women that go missing or are killed in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

“Because we’re First Nation, we’re meaningless to society. That gets to be tiresome,” she said.

Serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted in 2007 on six counts of second-degree murder but is suspected of killing dozens of women who went missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver police were criticized for not taking the cases seriously because many of the missing were sex workers or drug users.

Myrna Cranmer, one of the event’s co-organizers, said both violence and COVID-19 have had a profound affect on the health of women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood this past year.

She estimates 50 women from the neighbourhood have died under violent circumstances or from COVID-19 since last March.

“Some of the names that come up every year, it just really hurts my heart,” Cranmer said. “I’ve known these women, I’ve worked with them and it’s just very sad.”

Vancouver police couldn’t confirm the number, saying it would not be possible to accurately search for cases by gender or trace where someone from the neighbourhood may have died, such as a hospital or a different part of the city.

The case of Tonya Hyer, who was found beaten to death in a hotel operated by non-profit dedicated to ending violence against women on Jan. 19, 2020, has stuck with Cranmer.

“They still don’t know who killed Tonya,” Cranmer said. “We need to remember their names, even if it’s only for that one day. The women in the Downtown Eastside are ignored to death. No one remembers them.”

Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said Hyer’s death is still an active investigation and no arrests have been made.

Due to COVID-19, Sunday’s march was livestreamed to allow people to stay home if they were sick or did not feel comfortable attending a large event.

Provincial government officials issued a joint statement Sunday recognizing the 30th anniversary of the march and highlighting the challenges faced by Indigenous women, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The officials, including Premier John Horgan and Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin, noted that one in five Indigenous women had reported being a victim of physical or psychological violence across Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They promised to continue working with Indigenous communities to end gender-based violence in B.C.

ALSO READ: Pandemic exacerbating issues at core of Moose Hide Campaign to end violence

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

MMIWG

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students from Summerland’s Okanagan College often posed for photographs on the Big Rock. The rock was on the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Big Rock had been deposited during last ice age

Rock was once a prominent feature on Giant’s Head Mountain

The Fortunato family received the Bill Neilson Volunteer of the Year Award for their efforts with the Summerland Skating Club. (Contributed)
Summerland Skating Club members recognized for efforts

Three awards presented to members of Summerland club

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: The freedom to read

Books have been challenged many times in the past

The dam at Thirsk Lake, west of Summerland, was expanded in 2007. A crack has now been discovered where the old and new portions of the dam meet. (Summerland Review file photo)
Crack at Thirsk Dam to be examined

Reservoir west of Summerland was expanded in 2007

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Numbers of new COVID-19 cases for the week of Feb. 14 to 20 appear to be trending down for all local health areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. (BC Centre for Disease Control map)
Colours on COVID-19 map getting lighter for North Okanagan-Shuswap

Number of new weekly cases reported by BC Centre for Disease Control drop throughout region

Royal LePage Place, along with the adjacent Jim Lind Arena are the two ice arenas operated by the City of West Kelowna..—Image credit: contributed
$442,200 to replace aging ammonia chiller at West Kelowna arena

West Kelowna is the recipient of a provincial grant to replace the ammonia chiller

The husband wife team of Brett Turner and Olivia Fobert are the bakers and makers behind Joy Road Catering who are opening up a pop up bakeshop this May in the former Craft Kitchen. (Facebook)
Pop-up bakeshop opening in downtown Penticton

Joy Road Catering’s Bakeshop will be offering breads, pastries, lunch bowls and a marketplace

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Major renovations are planned for the Centennial Outdoor Rink in Vernon. - Photo submitted
$695K grant to get Vernon rink ready for next season

Provincial funding will go toward replacing chiller at Centennial Outdoor Rink

Smoke dissipates as fire crews respond to smoke that was billowing from a residential building in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue SE in Salmon Arm about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Residents displaced following Salmon Arm apartment fire

Crews were called to the scene at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24

A chocolate banana cream pie, similar to the smaller version pictured, baked by the Shuswap Pie Company’s Tovah Shantz, fetched $5,000 in this year’s Heritage Week pie auction fundraiser for R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum. (Shuswap Pie Company photo)
Made-in-Shuswap pie fetches $5,000 in fundraiser

Heritage Week pie auction raises $51,500 for R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum

BC49 logo
$75K lotto ticket sold in Vernon

Check your tickets, someone is winning big through the BC/49

Most Read