By David P. Ball
The annual missing women events were emboldened by an explosive Human Rights Watch report alleging gang rape, abuse and widespread misconduct by police released the day before. This year, marches also coincided with One Billion Rising, a global movement that saw rallies to end violence against women held in cities on every continent yesterday. Both initiatives were endorsed by organizers with Idle No More.
The largest of Canada's events was Vancouver's annual Women's Memorial March, in its 22nd year, which saw the Downtown Eastside streets swell with roughly 2,000 people. Many of them carried long cords of cloth squares embroidered or beaded with the names of the disappeared.
“It's actually healing and empowering with other family members to raise awareness,” Lorelei Williams said in Vancouver. Her cousin Tanya Holyk's DNA was found on convicted serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, but her aunt Belinda Williams remains missing.
The founder and director of the Butterflies in Spirit Project—a dance troupe of missing women's relatives—said she was not at all shocked by the February 13 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that brought allegations of numerous rapes, beatings and abuse by members of Canada's national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). She had already heard similar allegations, she said, when working with the British Columbia Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, convened to examine the case of one perpetrator, serial killer Robert Pickton.
In Ottawa, several hundred participants marched with the advocacy group Walk4Justice, which brought several victims' family members from the Maritimes and North West Territories to Parliament Hill with supporters, where they banged on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office door. Harper did not answer.