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

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Okanagan high school girls volleyball players Georgia MacLean of Lake Country’s George Elliot Secondary (from left), Olivia Pederson of Vernon Christian School, Kassidy Schaper-Kotter of Vernon Secondary and Makenna Lane from W.L. Seaton Secondary have signed to play college volleyball with Abbotsford’s Columbia Bible College. (File photos)
Fraser Valley college inks quartet of Okanagan recruits

Columbia Bible College Bearcats in Abbotsford sign four players to women’s volleyball squad

Items seized by Chilliwack RCMP and Abbotsford Police during a Feb. 23 traffic stop. (RCMP photo)
Police from Chilliwack and Abbotsford seize drugs in traffic stop

Chilliwack RCMP worked with the Abbotsford PD to seize four kilograms of suspected fentanyl

(Black Press file photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for man who tried to grab boy near Robertson elementary school

A man in a parked minivan reached out the driver side window as a young boy passed by

Hope’s station house, moved from its original location along the railroad to 111 Old Hope Princeton Way. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Emergency crews are on scene at Walnut Grove Secondary School after a report of a bomb threat at Walnut Grove Secondary School on March 3, 2021. The school was safely evacuated. (Shane MacKichan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
UPDATE: Bomb threat forces evacuation of Langley high school

Police asked the public to avoid 88th Avenue and Walnut Grove Drive

Most Read