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

Mary Clayton testing her ski and avalanche gear. As communications director, Clayton helped create Avalanche Canada into the success it is today. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Inspiring women: It was a men’s world – until Revelstoke’s Mary Clayton broke into it

She helped create Avalanche Canada into the internationally recognized organization it is today

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

From left to right. Jeremy, Ryan and Mitch Hunter are all third generation owners of Excel Tire, which will soon to become Trail Tire. (File)
3 generations later: Iconic Revelstoke tire business to be retread with new name

Excel Tire soon to become Trail Tire, but is still owned by the Hunter family

Ryan Bavin of Bavin Glassworks in Invermere. Photo: Submitted
Call for entries for Columbia Basin Culture Tour

Deadline for registration for artists and venues is April 15

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
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

C.E. “Ned” Bentley owned a garage on Shaughnessy Avenue, now Lakeshore Drive in Summerland. Bentley later went on to serve on Summerland’s council and was recognized with the Good Citizen Award in 1939. (Summerland Museum photo)
Former Summerland reeve once ran garage

C.E. “Ned” Bentley was a prominent figure in Summerland’s past.

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Paramjit Bogarh, connected to the murder of his wife in Vernon 35 years ago, has been relerased on full parole, one year after he was sentenced to five years in prison for accessory after the fact. (Contributed)
Full parole for ex-Okanagan man who helped wife’s alleged killer escape

Paramjit Bogarh pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after helping brother flee Canada

Most Read