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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March
May 29, 2023
Shanae Nadary, Grade 12

Every year on Valentine’s Day is the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Memorial March. The march started in 1992 in Vancouver and was organized by Linda Ann Joe to honor lives and protest against racism, violence, and inequity towards Indigenous women. In 1991, Linda Ann Joe’s daughter went missing, and her remains were eventually found in the Downtown Eastside. This sparked Linda and her family to have a cleansing ceremony at the site where her remains were found. Every year they gathered and had a ceremony, and soon other families with missing people started to join them. The number of people grew each year, and this later turned into a march with hundreds of people, then thousands of people in attendance. According to The Guardian, in the past 30 years, over 4,000 Indigenous women in Canada have gone missing or been murdered, but the true number is unknown. 

The march takes place every February 14 in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Before moving to Burnaby, I lived in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and I had only scarcely heard about this issue. As I started to learn more about missing and murdered Indigenous women, I got scared. What if it were me, what if it were my face being put up all around Downtown? It is scary to think that if I were ever in trouble the police would likely not help me and it is sad that if I were in danger the police would be the last person I would call. After hearing about this event in more detail from my Indigenous support worker, Katie, I really wanted to go to show my respects to all the women who have not returned home.

On February 14, 2023, the bus dropped us off about 5 blocks from Main Street and Hastings Street where the march started. As we got closer to where everyone was, I noticed there were a lot more people than I expected. A lot of people were wearing red, and the smell of sage was everywhere. I heard someone on a loudspeaker talking about women they knew who had gone missing. As time went on more and more speakers came up to talk about their missing daughters and missing cousins and missing mothers. It’s sad to think that my sister, cousin, or friend could be murdered or end up missing and I could be the one standing up there with a microphone, begging police to put up a missing person’s report and begging people to look for them. 

I don't remember much about the speeches, but this one quote stuck with me: “I’m not going to wait for some white man to find my daughter.” It made me realize that if Indigenous people want justice or help finding these missing women, they will have to do it themselves, instead of sitting around waiting for the police to do it when we all know that they are not going to do it. There are thousands of missing women who have not been found, like Shaylanna, who has been missing for 2 years, and the police have done nothing to help find her. Shaylanna’s mother has been doing everything she can to find her daughter while the police do nothing. Another case that took months to “solve” was Chelsea Poorman, who went missing for 18 months and, to this day, the police have not found the killer because they deemed her disappearance not suspicious. There are so many cases that have not been solved and it has taken weeks to even get posters up, but when a white person is missing, immediately posters and press releases and search parties are sent out. It takes weeks even for the name of an Indigenous person to get out to the public because the police don’t care. 

During the walk, we stopped at locations where women were last seen. As we walked through Gastown, a place I like to hang out, it made me feel sad, anxious and scared, knowing that Tatyanna Harrison, Keara Joe, and Taylor Edwards were last seen in these places. Knowing that I hang out in those areas is a little frightening. I’m scared that I could end up like one of those women. 

Since the march, I’m definitely a lot more cautious of who I hang out with, because some of these women were hanging out with their boyfriends and friends when they were last seen. Who can you really trust these days? It makes me really anxious walking home from work, and now I text my mom whenever I leave work, or get on or off a bus because you never know what can happen. Some people think I am crazy for wanting to text my mom my every move, but I am just being cautious because there are proportionally more missing and murdered Indigenous women than anyone else and I don’t want to end up like them. It’s not me that’s crazy; it’s the fact that I even have to do this that is crazy. 

I want these women to have justice. They deserve justice and these families shouldn’t have to worry about murderers walking around free and their loved ones’ cases going cold, like Gail Rogers, a go-go dancer who was murdered in 1975. Gail’s case remains unsolved. These women shouldn’t have to feel scared walking home at night. I know not all murders are going to end but it’s an insane number of women missing and murdered. The police need to do their job and not throw us aside. Find these killers, put up posters when we ask. It’s not that hard, even a 5-year-old could make a missing person’s poster, so why can’t an adult police officer do it?