Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and a very important day to reflect on how we centre Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in the pursuit of gender equity.
Outside of the social justice sector, IWD has become synonymous with celebration. Buzzwords such as ‘women’s empowerment’ have become increasingly common in discussions about IWD, with many forgetting that IWD is, at its core, a day of protest and resistance. It is a day to acknowledge that significant inequities continue to exist, particularly for racialized women. The ongoing crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is evidence of such inequities.
On February 14, WTC board members, staff, and volunteers attended the Annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. With march attendees among the thousands, we were inspired to see so many folks come together in solidarity and community with Indigenous women and girls.
The event began with a community gathering at Main and Hastings, where family members spoke in remembrance of missing and murdered loved ones. Shortly after, the march proceeded throughout the Downtown Eastside, stopping in places where women were last seen or found.
While the entire march was an eye-opening experience, a key moment that resonated with us was witnessing two bald eagles fly over the crowd. Everyone looked up in admiration as the eagles flew by, with many folks seeing the eagles as symbols of healing and strength. We felt the power of solidarity, which gave us hope.
Nonetheless, the march was was also a grim reminder of the systemic injustices faced by Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in Canada. Indigenous women are 12x more likely to be murdered or go missing than non-Indigenous women.
For more information about the gendered nature of colonial violence, see the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre’s Red Women Rising Report.
Despite increased demands for justice from the community, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has failed to take action in addressing the worsening MMIWG crisis. The VPD’s inexcusable lack of accountability, paired with further inaction on behalf of governments, has come at the cost of Indigenous lives.
This International Women’s Day (and every day), we must transcend white, middle-class feminism by working to dismantle the intersecting systems of oppression that disproportionately harm Indigenous women.
One key action you can take to support Indigenous women is sharing our recent report entitled The TRC Calls to Action in BC Municipalities: Progress, Barriers, and Opportunities to Accelerate Implementation with your municipality. This report outlines ways municipalities can make meaningful progress toward reconciliation by supporting culturally appropriate services for Indigenous survivors of violence.
You can also watch the documentary Finding Dawn, produced by acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh or donate to an Indigenous-serving organization such as the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre or the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
By advocating alongside Indigenous women, we can work toward a vision of equitable city-building rooted in decolonization.
This blog post was written by Board Member, Alexa Traboulay