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Heartbreaking Ritual: Annual MMIW Valentine’s Day Marches in Vancouver, Across Canada

February 14, 2016, marks the 26th annual Women's Memorial March to commemorate the murdered and disappeared aboriginal women in Vancouver and Canada.
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The impending, promised national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada notwithstanding, the time of year has come to memorialize the nearly 1,200 whose cases are still mourned, solved or not.

RELATED: Nearly 1,200 Missing, Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada: RCMP

The Women’s Memorial March will be held for the 26th time in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where attention was first drawn to the disappearances and cold cases by victims’ families and their advocates back in 1991, spurred by the murder of a woman whose name has been withheld out of respect for her family’s privacy. 

“Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the Downtown Eastside still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss,” said the Women’s Memorial March Committee in a statement. “Indigenous women disproportionately continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism.”

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The march will wind through the Downtown Eastside, stopping at the places where each who has disappeared from that part of Vancouver was last seen alive, offering “prayers, medicines, and roses in remembrance,” the statement noted.

While lauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to convening a national inquiry to get to the root of attitudes that enable the tragedy to continue, the committee had advice on where those roots might be.

“The government’s current plan for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women should focus on three key issues: the overall status of indigenous women in Canada, addressing systemic and male violence against indigenous women, and safe and respectful participation of families and loved ones including families of the heart, frontline workers and indigenous feminist organizations,” committee co-chair Fay Blaney said.

Trudeau has promised that any inquiry will begin with family consultations, working from the grassroots on up.

RELATED: Canada Announces Long-Awaited Inquiry Into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

Marches will take place elsewhere on Turtle Island as well, in cities throughout Canada and the United States. More information is available at the February 14th Annual Women’s March website. And some commemorations have already occurred, as with the February 7 ceremony held by the British Columbia provincial government for families of 18 women who have been lost along the remote stretch of road known as the Highway of Tears, CBC News reported.

RELATED: British Columbia Pledges $3 Million to Highway of Tears Safety

Meanwhile, the country’s provincial justice ministers have been meeting as well, to discuss the best approach for addressing this longstanding problem and finding solutions, CKNW News Radio reported on January 21.