The Walk4Justice came to a dramatic conclusion on Parliament Hill, Monday, September 19, where organizers held a rally and called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to “step up or step down” over an inquiry into murdered or missing Aboriginal women.
CUPE members and hundreds of other supporters joined the walkers for the final leg of their 4,500 km, 91 day journey from Vancouver the Ottawa, carrying coffins decorated with paper butterflies containing the names of missing or murdered women on them from the Minwaashin Lodge to Parliament Hill.
Walk4Justice organizers told the crowd that violent incidents against Aboriginal women were on the rise, and demanded the Harper government to commit proper funding and support to a full national public inquiry into the epidemic.
Many shared personal stories of lost loved ones as well.
Elder Mabel Todd, a participant in her 70s who made the first walk with the group in 2009 and walked again this year, described why she was so committed to the cause.
“It gets emotional for me, but I hang in there,” said Todd. “It’s harder for the women, especially the mothers, because they’ve carried the child for nine months, given birth to the child, raised the child only to lose the child in violence.”
“The hurt is always there. It never goes away. They may be gone but they are never forgotten. They’ll always be in our hearts.”
Walk4Justice Co-founder Gladys Radek also shared a personal story about searching for her missing niece in Vancouver and meeting fellow co-founder Bernie Williams, also searching for a lost loved one.
“Together we decided we wanted to try to make a difference for all the missing,” said Radek. “There’s so many of us that are feeling the pain of missing our loved ones. And there’s so many of us that know there is no justice when it comes to First Nations women. That’s a shame.”
Organizers also spoke on the recent failings of the public inquiry in B.C., where several key stakeholder organizations have been forced to walk away from the process due to a lack of proper funding. Nationally, despite a commitment of $10 million over five years, speakers told the crowd that no one knows how the money is actually being spent and that little is being done.
According to Sisters In Spirit, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and researching the alarmingly high rates of violence against Aboriginal women, more than 582 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since they began collecting data in 2005. These cases remain unsolved.
- For more information, check out the Walk4Justice website