Published: February 23, 2011 3:00 PM
Updated: February 23, 2011 3:45 PM
Hundreds of women are murdered or go missing every year in Canada, with a disproportionate number coming from aboriginal backgrounds.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada reports that 582 indigenous women and girls have disappeared or were murdered over the last five years. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 162 women were killed every year between 2005 and 2009. That number doesn’t account for more than 1,500 other women the Canadian Police Information Centre has identified as missing.
Local activist Gwynne Hunt draws attention to the plight of those who are lost to violence through a silent walk and vigil called The Memory March. She’s organized the event in Vancouver for five years and now brings the campaign home to Abbotsford on March 19.
“It’s to honour and inform,” said Hunt. “You can’t just build a few transition houses and say ‘there, we fixed the problem,’ because it’s way bigger than that. We need to change our language and the way we talk about violence, rather than glorifying it.”
The march starts at 10 a.m. in front of the picnic area off Emerson Street at Mill Lake. Walkers will head to Civic Plaza behind Matsqui Centennial Auditorium for a memorial tribute honouring 4,000 women and girls.
Gladys Radek and Bernie Williams, founders of Walk4Justice, will lead a circle prayer.
Memory March is sponsored by Art Matters Society, a charitable organization based in Abbotsford that produces live, unjuried, social and political theatre.
The event is being held in conjunction with the International Celebration of Women at the Best Western Regency Conference Centre, located at 32110 Marshall Rd. The forum includes music, dance, poetry, films and monologues focusing on women’s topics. Performances will feature local singers Kat Wahamaa, Judith Reeves, Lori Watt and Jane Perrett.
Psychologist Dr. Lyne Piche and Pat Kelln from Advocacy for Women will also speak at the event.
“It’s a day of discovery and reflection,” said Hunt. “Ending violence against women is the underlying message.”
The International Celebration of Women is presented in two sessions, noon to 5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $6, or $10 for both shows, and must be purchased in advance. They’re available at She’s My Florist in Abbotsford and through Hunt at 604-859-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds will fund the Memory March and the launch of Hunt’s new book titled Rampage: The Pathology of an Epidemic, which chronicles five years of research into missing women and children in Canada.