Hundreds demonstrate for action to end violence against women


OTTAWA — Michele Pineault sits on the steps on Parliament Hill, tears rolling down her cheeks as she describes the six years of not knowing after her daughter disappeared in 1997 — then the nightmare that followed when her DNA was confirmed to have been found on Robert Pickton’s pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

She clutches a sign with the image of her daughter, Stephanie Lane, who was 20 when she vanished and left behind “a beautiful baby boy” who was then just eight months old.

“Can you imagine trying to raise a child when you don’t know where your child is?” Pineault said. “The pain and the grief will never go away.”

Pineault travelled to Ottawa from Vancouver for the Families of Sisters in Spirit vigil. It was one of 166 in Canada and abroad on Thursday in honour of missing and murdered aboriginal girls and women.

Pickton was convicted of killing six women but he is suspected of killing and butchering as many as 49. He was not charged in Lane’s death.

Pineault said the Missing Women Inquiry into why it took police so long to catch the notorious serial killer didn’t offer closure; it simply raised more questions.

The vigil capped the end of the Oct. 4 day of remembrance for missing and murdered aboriginal women and — for the first time — led into Take Back The Night, a march to protest violence against women.

Hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill before the march to hear stories from family members of aboriginal women who died under brutal circumstances or who vanished without a trace. Their images were held up high as a drummer played in their honour.

On a sign in the crowd the words: “We demand justice now.” On another, “No more stolen sisters.”

Some speakers called for a national public inquiry while people in the crowd shouted “shame” for the lack of government response.

Since the RCMP does not collect data on missing and murdered women by ethnicity, the Native Women’s Association of Canada launched its own research project. It found there were at least 582 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women, said spokesperson Jennifer Lord.

“First Nations, Métis and aboriginal women are disproportionally impacted by this form of extreme violence,” Lord said before the vigil. “Each number — when we say 582 — represents someone who was loved and cherished and is missed by their family.”

The vigil began just after 6 p.m., and as the sun set the grounds were illuminated with candles.

A canvas “prayer scroll” was laid out on the pavement with hundreds of messages.

“Peace not harm.”

“Time to heal.”

“We will never forget you.”

After the vigil, organizers of Take Back The Night led women (and some men, too) in a march. The group took over Wellington Street, blowing whistles and holding up signs, walking toward their final destination, City Hall.

“Women unite, take back the night,” the crowd chanted in unison.

Ottawa held its first Take Back The Night match in 1978 to protest violence against women. Sisters in Spirit held its first vigil in 2006.

Lord said organizers were glad to work together this year, to begin with a solemn vigil and to end with a rally that calls for action.




Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016