Calgarians march to remember missing, murdered women

Last Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 | 8:00 AM MT


The Women's Memorial March has been held annually across Canada for 17 years, but this year marked the first time people in Calgary have taken part in the event, held to raise awareness of missing and murdered women.

To begin Saturday's march, an aboriginal elder said a prayer as about 70 people joined hands in a circle. Two drummers then led the group as they walked the streets just north of the city's downtown core.

Among the participants was Cassandra Winiewski, who wore five pink, heart-shaped cut-outs, each with the name of a murdered or missing woman, including a friend who fell victim to the underground sex trade.

"I can feel them on me right now and I'm speaking for them and I'm trying to get the universe and everyone in government to realize that this is a real problem," she said.

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, another marcher, said he finds it disturbing that so many women don't feel safe and can't find justice.

"It's clearly time to make this a priority by all of us legislators as well as our enforcement people and that this level of insecurity doesn't continue," he said.

Raise awareness

One of the organizers of the march, Theresa Rothenbush, said she believes it's important Calgarians take part in the event and become more aware of just how serious a problem violence against women is in the city.

"Well, in the last five years, from 2002 to 2007, one quarter of all homicides in Calgary were related to family violence and a majority of those victims were women," she said.

The plight of aboriginal women also took on special significance at the march. According to a national survey, the spousal homicide rate for aboriginal women is eight times higher than it is for non-aboriginal women.

Similar marches were held in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria, Saskatoon and Toronto.

The first such march was held in Vancouver in 1992 to mourn the dozens of women in that city who had been slain or gone missing, most of them from the city's notorious Downtown Eastside, a district troubled by prostitution and illegal drug use.

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Updated: August 21, 2016