A large crowd gathered on Parliament Hill Monday to remember and demand justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women at the conclusion of the 4th annual cross-country Walk 4 Justice.
Walk4Justice is a grassroots-funded, nonprofit organization that was created in January 2008. Gladys Radek and Bernie Williams co-founded this group to raise awareness about the plight of the far too many missing and murdered women across Canada. Their supporters consist of family members from across the country who have lost loved ones: "grassroots women and men from all walks of life have joined us in our efforts to demand justice, closure, equality and accountability," explains their website.
"Aboriginal Women, our life-givers and their children, our future, are still suffering from generations of Canadian policy. A policy that is contrary to Article 2 of the United Nations International Convention on Genocide. We are walking for justice, closure, equality and accountability...There is a dire need to address the discriminatory, racist practices that have taken place involving the police, politicians, the judicial system and societal acceptance of the horrendous crimes against humanity."
Arriving in Ottawa after this cross-country walk, participants explained: "Day after day, as we walked across the country, we heard new reports of women and girls going missing. When will the government of Canada listen to our families and our demand for justice?"
"Since our first walk," the group explains, "conditions have not improved for women in Canada. In our view, they have worsened."
The walkers were joined on Parliament Hill by local supporters, activists and others. They were received on the Hill by several NDP MPs, including Olivia Chow, Linda Duncan (Aboriginal Affairs critic), Libby Davies, Jean Crowder, Romeo Saganash, Dennis Bevington, Charlie Angus, and Phillip Toone and others, as well as Liberal Winnipeg North MP, Kevin Lamoureux. Noticeably absent was Rona Ambrose, who, it was explained, had said she "was there with them in spirit." "Well, we need action. We need justice," explained one speaker. Not surprisingly, no Conservatives appeared at the rally, or at a later meeting with the group.
Things have become more dire in the search for justice for these missing and murdered women since the Harper government killed the Sisters in Spirit program in 2010. In a recent budget, the Conservatives announced a commitment to invest $10 million towards the issue -- however, Walk 4 Justice participants report that the families are critical that most of the money has gone to policing issues, and not directed to assisting families with healing and justice.
As the rally continued outside, MPs returned into the House of Commons for the opening of Parliament, beginning with a special tribute to Jack Layton. As Members remembered the contributions of Jack Layton, the missing women whose relatives stood outside were not forgotten. Green Party leader Elizabeth May reminded us all: "Some of us die in ways that are almost anonymous, as the vigil outside and the walk for justice remind us of the aboriginal women." But today we remember them. And the Walk4 Justice members ask us to support their call for justice for those murdered, and for healing for those left behind.
To learn more or donate to their fundraising efforts visit: http://fnbc.info/walk4justice