Women’s Memorial March marks 30 years of honouring and remembering in Downtown Eastside

Women's Memorial March on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021
At the Women's Memorial March on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, Sarah-Anne Mitchell stands by a photograph of her mother, Frances Mitchell, who was killed in the Downtown Eastside in 2020. Beside her is her daughter, Sofia - Photo by David P. Ball
Laurence Gatinel - CFRO - VancouverBC | 15-02-2021
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By David P. Ball
The Women's Memorial March marked its 30th anniversary on Sunday, with hundreds braving the snow and freezing temperatures to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in the Downtown Eastside.

This year's event was different in several ways from the previous ones — for instance, almost every participant wore face masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission, many of them with Indigenous designs, artwork or MMIWG messages. The march was organized by the February 14 Women's Memorial March Committee, which offered hand sanitizer, water bottles, food and shelter for elders during the event.

Another difference was that after the march returned to the sacred fire they'd lit in the middle of the Hastings and Main street intersection, one of the original event's founders — lead elder Reta Blind — passed that role on to Musqueam Nation's Cecilia Point to carry into the future after 30 years.

Many paid tribute to Blind's leadership since 1991 when the idea for an annual event began solidifying. Speakers explained that Blind had served as a mentor, supporter, friend, auntie, counsellor and spiritual guide — as well as protest comrade when needed — over the decades. In a tearful, short ritual, she put a blanket on Point, whom Blind had selected to replace her in the ceremonial role, and the two hugged.

Speakers said they hoped to remember loved ones and families of those who vanished, many of whom carried pictures or wore shirts with names of the disappeared. Many also criticized the police for what they described as being dismissive or even hostile when people tried to file missing persons reports.

For many marchers who spoke to The Pulse on CFRO, the event offered much hope that community is stronger together and that no one is left alone or forgotten.