British Columbia·Photos

Thousands join Women's Memorial March in Vancouver

Thousands of people gathered on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Tuesday for the annual Women's Memorial March.

The annual event is held to remember women who have died or gone missing on the Downtown Eastside

The annual Women's Memorial March drew thousands of people, closing the streets throughout the Downtown Eastside on Tuesday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

To the rhythm of Indigenous drumming and singing, thousands of people slowly move through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Many carry banners or signs with women's names and faces on them, others fill the street with the scent of burning sage. 

Women at the front of the huge crowd carry roses, which are ceremonially left along the route for the women who have gone missing, been murdered, or tragically died in the community.

2017 Women's Memorial March in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

CBC News Vancouver at 6

4 years ago
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2017 Women's Memorial March in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside 0:41

Myrna Cranmer has been taking part in the march each Valentine's Day for about 20 years.

"I march for the women that have died in the community, that have died in the Downtown Eastside. And there are many. There are many. You know, there are far too many," said Cranmer before the march on Tuesday.

The 66-year-old gestured toward a booklet published for the event. She said there's nearly 900 women's names printed inside.

The smell of burning sage filled the air as the Women's Memorial March wove through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside on Tuesday. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Unfortunately, there will be more names added," said Cranmer. "It's never ending because every few months there's a brand new bunch of women that come from somewhere, you know, younger women, older women. I don't know where they're coming from, but they keep coming, and this is where they come … and this is where they die."

As Cranmer prepared to join the thousands of people gathered at Main Street and Hastings, she said her feelings on the march have changed over the years.

Myrna Cranmer, 66, has been taking part in the annual march for about 20 years.

"Before, my heart used to be very sad. Now, it's getting very angry. There's nothing. You know, there's nothing I can do to make sure these women are safe and alive," she said. "They just keep dying."

Cranmer said this year, the fentanyl overdose crisis that has ravaged the Downtown Eastside has added a whole new dynamic to the march.

"The last couple of women that have died, I worked with the past couple of years. Their deaths really hit me hard," she said.

(From right to left) Evelyne Youngchief, Carol Martin, Rebecca Brass, and Brass's daughter speak to media before the annual march. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"They are two women who have been around the Downtown Eastside for a long time — friends."

"There's so much money coming into the community, and you'd never know it with the amount of women that keep dying," said Cranmer.

"They're being ignored to death."

Two women hug at the annual Women's Memorial March. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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