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12th Annual Strawberry Ceremony Held At Toronto Police Headquarters

February 21st, 2017     by Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith     Comments

Photo credit: Christine Smith McFarlane

The crisis of the missing and murdered First Nations women of Canada is both a national tragedy and a national shame. The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street. Though her name is not spoken out of respect for her family, an annual march on Valentine’s Day to express compassion, community and caring for all women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside commenced. Since then, memorial marches across Canada have been held annually.

On Tuesday February 14, 2017, the 12th Annual Strawberry Ceremony was held to honour Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two-Spirit people who have died violent and premature deaths. Close to six hundred people came together at the Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College Street in downtown Toronto to let victim’s families know that they are not forgotten.

Organized by Toronto’s February 14th Organizing Committee, comprised of No More Silence, Sistering, The Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Maggie’s and other Indigenous and feminist organizations, this annual event seeks to raise awareness about the disappearances of Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two-Spirit people on Turtle Island.

Joyce Carpenter with a picture of her missing daughter. Photo credit: Christine Smith McFarlane

According to the 2014 report by Amnesty International, Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls In Canada: A Summary of Amnesty International’s Concerns and Calls to Action, “Available statistics consistently point to a greatly disproportionate incidence of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. In a 2009 government survey of the ten provinces, Aboriginal women were nearly three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to report being a victim of a violent crime; this was true regardless of whether the violence was perpetrated by a stranger or by a spouse.” The report continues, “not only do Indigenous women face more frequent incidence of violence, the violence is also much more severe. A recent Statistics Canada report suggests that the national homicide rate for Indigenous women is at least seven times higher than for non-Indigenous women.” (Amnesty International, February 2014). These statistics also show a greatly disproportionate number of First Nations women and girls among long term missing persons’ cases - cases where the reasons for the individual’s disappearance and their eventual fate remain undetermined.

Photo credit: Christine Smith McFarlane

In 2016, the Government of Canada launched an independent national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Though the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is independent from the federal government, it has been regarded by the Indigenous community with mixed feelings. No More Silence co-founder Audrey Huntley says “that in these times of a government inquiry it is even more important for community to step up and have grieving members backs - their struggle for justice amid terrible pain needs to be honoured and respected. They need to know we love them and will never forget!”

Tags: activist report

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