February 14th – 9th Annual Strawberry Ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and those who have died Violent Deaths
Gathering at Toronto Police Headquarters followed by Community Feast
Three young Native women have passed away under violent circumstances in Toronto since the last February 14th National Day of Action.
Cheyenne Fox was 20 and a mother when she fell from the 24th floor of a condo last April. Terra Gardener was killed by a train only a few weeks later and Bella Laboucan-Mclean fell from the 31st floor of downtown condo in July.
In Vancouver, “the February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March is held on Valentine’s Day each year to honour the memory of women from the Downtown Eastside who have died due to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence. Now in its 23rd year, the march brings courage and commitment to remember and honour murdered and missing women, and to end the violence that vulnerable women in the DTES face on a daily basis.” (Organizing Committee Media Release)
This will be the 9th year in a row that Native community members and their supporters in Toronto have been gathering at police headquarters. Initially to show support for the Vancouver neighbourhood upon the arrest of Robert Pickton, the event has become an important space for grieving family members and community to honour their own missing and murdered love ones. Close to 70 women’s names adorn signs and are printed on brochures handed out at the event, Native women from Ontario who have died violent deaths primarily over the last 30 years. In fact, one of the groups organizing the event, No More Silence has recently launched a community database documenting violent deaths of Native women nation wide. In partnership with Ottawa based Families of Sisters In Spirit and community partner, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, the database, which is independent of government funding, fills a gap left by the funding cuts and subsequent shut down of the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters In Spirit program.
Initiated by No More Silence in 2006, the gathering at police headquarters is now organized by a committee made up of community members and groups including the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Maggie’s Toronto and Sistering. It is endorsed and supported by a wide range of public interest groups, churches, unions, university groups and local agencies. Close to 900 people attended in 2013.
Marches will also be held in at least 10 other cities including Montreal, Sudbury, Thunderbay, Edmonton and Calgary.
February 14th Organizing Committee (No More Silence, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Sistering, Maggie’s Toronto)
Audrey Huntley, No More Silence, 647-981-2918
Sheryl Lindsay, Sistering, 416-926-9762
Krysta Williams, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, email@example.com