Thousands of people flooded the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Friday for the Annual Women’s Memorial March.
Now in its 29th year, the Valentine’s Day march honours the lives of missing and murdered women and brings the community together to express grief and facilitate healing.
The website for the event states that, “This event is organized and lead by women in the DTES because women — especially Indigenous women — face physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence on a daily basis. 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 intersection of Main and Hastings was shut down for the opening ceremony, which included speeches, singing and the thunder of dozens of drums. Some attendees held framed photographs of their lost loved ones, while others carried signs and banners emblazoned with the names of the missing and murdered. One sign read “What if it was your daughter?”
Coast Salish territorial elders made offerings at all four corners of the intersection as an eagle circled above in the cloudless sky. Several people commented that an eagle flies over the ceremony every year.
The grieving families of the missing and murdered women emerged from the Carnegie Centre and were encircled by drummers, as people hugged and consoled one another. The gathered masses then proceeded north on Main Street and down into Gastown, drumming and singing as they went.
One woman in attendance, Elizabeth Sam, explained why she thought the annual march was so important: “It brings awareness to people who don’t know that this is still an ongoing genocide, that our women and girls and two-spirit folk are still going missing and being murdered. The systems that are in place are still oppressing us and holding us down. These systems are created to make us fail and not succeed in life, so that we won’t take back our land.”