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

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The cost of British Columbia’s Site C hydroelectric dam has grown to $16 billion and the completion has been moved up a year to 2025. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BC Liberal energy critic blasts ‘lack of transparency’ on Site C

MLA Tom Shypitka says Site C going ahead is a ‘good thing’, blames NDP for mismanagement

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in Cranbrook woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

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

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Most Read