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19th annual women's memorial march draws thousands in Vancouver

| February 16, 2010
Alberta Gail Williams has been missing since 1989. Her sister, pictured here, still searches for her.

Sunday, the annual Women’s March for Missing and Murdered Women wound its way through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, only a block from the route of a Chinese New Year parade earlier that morning.  

An estimated three thousand marchers followed the families women who have disappeared or been killed in the area.  As drums opened the event, some members of the crowd pointed eagerly to three eagles circling high above the intersection of Main and Hastings.

Many of those who attended wore their traditional regalia to celebrate the lives of these women and demand greater action on the part of all levels of government to protect the women who live and work in marginalized areas such as Vancouver’s East Side. Alaina Tom of the Secwepmc Nation near Chase, B.C. held a carved staff aloft as the crowd sang during the opening ceremonies.

"It's important to show that we support the families of these women," said a marcher named Lone Buffalo Woman who had travelled from St. John New Brunswick to attend.

As First Nation drums from across Canada resounded against walls of the closely packed apartment buildings of the East Side, the march wound its way through the neighborhood. The drums fell silent only for smudging ceremonies at the spots where a murdered woman’s body had been found or the last place a missing woman was seen.

"There is not enough action on these issues," said Tom at the end of the memorial march, holding her staff aloft as a signal for her family. "Sometimes I use this so my kids can find me," she said with a smile.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association legal observers accompanied the march, at times helping marchers and drivers navigate the route.

For more photos see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimkim/sets/72157623445427722/

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