Hundreds march in Vancouver in memory of missing women
Aboriginal leaders call for public inquiry
Last Updated: Saturday, February 14, 2009 | 5:51 PM PT
Hundreds of people marched through Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside on Saturday to remember the dozens of women who were slain or have gone missing in B.C.
Marlene George, one of the organizers of the 18th annual Women's Memorial March, said the event is for women all over the country.
"We aren't going to tolerate people coming in from outside the community and murdering women from the Downtown Eastside or anywhere, so we're holding this march for all women," she said.
Many were there to mourn the six women whom Robert William Pickton has been convicted of killing and the 20 others he is still accused of slaying.
Other people were there to draw attention to the 18 women who've gone missing along the western stretch of Highway 16, the so-called highway of tears, across northern British Columbia.
And there are other missing women, including more than 30 still on the Vancouver Police Department's list of missing persons from the Downtown Eastside.
Aboriginal leaders demand inquiry
Leaders in B.C.'s aboriginal community used the opportunity to call for a public inquiry into the deaths of the slain and missing women.
B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal has said any talk of a potential inquiry must wait until Pickton's legal saga comes to an end.
Pickton is appealing his murder convictions, and Crown prosecutors have said there are no plans to push forward with Pickton's 20 outstanding charges if his earlier second-degree murder convictions are upheld.
However, David Dennis of the United Native Nations, who spoke at the march, said it's unfair to have the women's families wait that long for justice.
"Women continue to go missing along the Highway of Tears and the Downtown Eastside. The Vancouver Police and the RCMP have not yet satisfied the aboriginal community or the larger community that they have addressed the errors of the past comprehensively," Dennis said.
The First Nations Summit, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations are all demanding answers from the province, he said.
They have sent a letter to the premier and the attorney general requesting a meeting about a public inquiry.
Families still grieving
Jason Fluery, whose sister Mona Wilson is among the women Pickton was convicted of murdering, told a packed room at a community centre before the march that police and politicians have turned a "blind eye" to the missing women.
"My sister was a person with a heart and skin and blood like everybody else in this room," said Fluery.
"It goes on everywhere down here, because nobody cares. Our people are dying every day because of it."
Ernie Crey's younger sister, Dawn Crey, disappeared in December 2000 at age 43. Her DNA was found on Pickton's farm in 2004, although he was never charged in her death.
Crey said if the legal process stops, the families of the women who were connected to the Pickton farm but for whom no one was convicted or even charged may never know what happened.
"It causes me anxiety and anguish," said Crey.
"My concern is that that is where it will all end. This leaves a question mark for a family like mine."
Rallies and marches were also planned in Victoria, Calgary and Winnipeg.With files from the Canadian Press
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