Premier John Horgan; Hli Haykwhl Ẃii X̱sgaak, Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant; Grace Lore, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity; and Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, have issued the following statement to acknowledge the annual Women’s Memorial March:
“For 31 years, people have marched together on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for the Women’s Memorial March for murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
“Thanks to the grassroots efforts of Indigenous women and Elders, such as Rita Blind, every year the march is a reminder to all British Columbians of the daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and friends who have been directly affected by violence, have been murdered or who remain missing. It’s a day of remembrance and a call to action to end the violence.
“Violence against Indigenous women and girls remains an urgent issue in our province and throughout the country.
“In honour of the women, girls and two-spirit people who have been stolen and those who have survived, we are committed to working together to support the safety and well-being of women and girls, and to address the conditions that put them at risk of violence.
“As part of the early strategies outlined in B.C.’s Path Forward to end violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people, we have responded to calls to action from survivors, families, community members, advocacy groups and organizations to invest in a community fund to empower Indigenous communities – inclusive of First Nations people living in urban areas and off reserve, Métis citizens and 2SLGBTQ+ communities – to develop safety plans.
“Dismantling the underlying and systemic issues that result in Indigenous women experiencing violence at a much higher rate than non-Indigenous women is also fundamental to our government’s work toward building true and lasting reconciliation and advancing gender equity.
“We have made it a priority to commemorate initiatives that raise awareness and honour Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people who have gone missing or been murdered, survivors and their family members.
“We work in support of organizations such as PACE Society in Vancouver, which recently received provincial funding to support emergency sexual assault services, and the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, which received funding for health, educational, employment and harm-reduction supports, including the drop-in centre, open 365 nights a year.
“In 2020, provincial funding allowed WISH to open Canada’s first 24-hour temporary emergency shelter. The shelter has operated at capacity since the day it opened, highlighting the urgent need for housing and safe spaces.
“Since March 2020, B.C. has provided $20 million to support a multi-year grant program delivered by the Ending Violence Association of BC to support the delivery of co-ordinated, community-based emergency sexual assault response services, which are trauma-informed and culturally appropriate, throughout B.C.
“In recognition of the substantial need for locally relevant and culturally safe supports for sexual assault survivors in Indigenous communities in B.C., approximately half of the grant funding was allocated to an Indigenous services stream.
“We are investing in more supportive homes for women experiencing or at risk of homelessness. And for women and children fleeing violence at home, there are transition houses and safe homes throughout the province.
“Following a recommendation from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the B.C. government announced in April 2021 that Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, will have cellular coverage along the entire route.
“We recognize there’s still much more work to be done. We pledge to continue to listen, learn, take action and work with Indigenous Peoples to end gender-based violence and build a future where Indigenous women and children are safe in every home, every workplace and every community in this province.”