It all started for me back in 2004, when Rachel Quinney was found murdered in a field Northeast of Sherwood Park, Alberta. She was 19 years old and her body had been mutilated. The headlines in the paper at the time used so many demeaning words as if to justify the death of a young woman whose life had taken a wrong turn. A year later on May 6, 2005 another friend of mine was found in a field, also murdered and once again demeaned in the media. I couldn’t sit back and do nothing, I felt I needed to tell the country who these women really were. I became a part of the Project KARE website and started chatting on the forum. When the forum was shut down, a few of us girls started another site to memorialize the women who were found dead. We wanted to them to be treated like human beings as they deserved, rather than defined only by their death and addictions or unfortunate involvement in sex trade work.
SeenMeLately.ca started and the forums began again. People from all over Canada were discussing the murders and talking about possible killers. All sorts of discussions took place, but one discussion in particular caught my attention. It was a discussion about a march that took place in Vancouver to memorialize the women they had lost to murder and who were missing. At that time Pickton was under investigation and was thought to have been the serial killer of over 50 women from the Downtown Eastside Vancouver. Someone asked, “why don’t we have a march here in Edmonton,” and I said, “Why don’t we?” That was in January of 2006.
The idea was formed and I started to do some research. I called Vancouver and spoke with a lady by the name of Marlene, and asked her if it would be OK to do a walk here in Edmonton at the same time as they did their walk. The idea was welcomed and Marlene let me know the basic rules they followed and the colours they wore and all the things they did in Vancouver. With only a few weeks to prepare, I wondered if this was something I really wanted to do. Who was I to do this? What would people think, especially the parents of some of the women who were murdered. I started to feel hesitant and thought maybe this wasn’t my place. What if people got mad? I just didn’t know if I should do it. I decided to call a woman, who I had seen in the news, and whose daughter had been murdered. Kathy King was the mother of Cara King, age 22, found in a canola field near Highway 214 and Highway 16 by Sherwood Park on September 1, 1997.
When Kathy answered the phone, I was a bit scared. However, I told her my name and my intentions of the march. I had no clue what this woman was thinking. However, she gave me her thoughts and her permission and she thought the march was OK to do. That was all I needed, and so February 14, 2006 the First Annual Memorial March for All the Missing and Murdered Women of Edmonton was started.
The Night was a bit chilly, the media was in attendance and about 60 people came to walk and memorialize the women we had lost to violence. We stopped every couple of blocks and dropped flowers on the corner, to represent the women who worked on the streets of Edmonton. It was quiet, emotional, yet so moving. Finally, we gave the families a chance to remember their loved ones with dignity. After the walk, we had a bite to eat, and opened the floor to anyone wishing to speak. After about 45 minutes it was over, and I left feeling proud and quite emotional. Yet I knew, when I got home, my crackpipe would be waiting for me. Yes, I was an addict, and my life wasn’t much different from the women who had been killed. My secret was something I had held for many years, yet I pretended that I was just a concerned person, who lost my friends.
Life went on for me, and I continued on with my addiction. I also had a full-time job and a relationship that was rather abusive. I put the March behind me and never thought I would ever have to do it again.
Two weeks later, on February 26, 2006, my younger sister was found murdered in her home, stabbed to death by her friend over a cell phone and a guy. Now the March had a new meaning to me.
Eight years later, we are still going strong. Women are still being victimized and they are not forgotten.The March has grown over the years, and awareness is slowly changing. Vulnerable women are now referred to as living “High Risk” lifestyles. The March, however, has expanded to recognize the vulnerability of all women, of all nations and all lifestyles, who have lost their lives to violence.
My life has changed because of this walk. I live a different lifestyle and I am open and honest about my past. The march gave me sobriety, acceptance and pride of who I am. It has given families a place to remember loved ones lost to violence, and it reminds us all that we need to continue working to end all violence in our society.
I began my media campaign in 1997 after my daughter disappeared from the streets of Edmonton and was found a month later in a canola field outside the city. She was a beautiful young woman who had struggled with many challenges in her short life and seemed to fall between the cracks of available services. After my initial shock and anger, I vowed to make some meaning from her tragic death and began to speak on behalf of all vulnerable young people. When Danielle phoned me in 2006, I agreed to join her March and welcomed the opportunity for public awareness. My daughter’s murder was still unsolved and there had been many more young women killed in the following years.
I admire the vision and dedication Danielle has shown in keeping the March going year after year. It has truly become “her” March in that every year she has risen to the challenge of recruiting other volunteers and organizing the venue. The Memorial March continues as a grassroots movement built from the caring of people who have lost loves ones. Violence against women happens too frequently in our world and “blaming the victims” often takes attention away from perpetrators who must be held accountable. More importantly, however, I participate in the March because it is an affirmation and recognition of loved ones lost, on a day universally recognized for Love and remembrance. ~ Kathy King
Danielle Boudreau, the founder and organizer of the Memorial March of Edmonton, has worked for years advocating for families whose loved ones are missing or murdered.
Photo credit Billi Jean Murray