author: taylor balfour | news writer
a march for safety / jeremy davis
Women’s March dressed in red for murdered, missing Indigenous women and girls
For the second year in a row in Regina, and the third year in a row globally, the Women’s March has taken to the streets.
In Regina, the date was set for Jan. 19, and much like the march last year, organizers have high hopes for the march’s impact, both immediately and deeper into the future.
“The goal is to send a message to leaders, leaders of this province, leaders of the country, leaders worldwide, that we stand for social justice, for economic justice, for freedom from discrimination, for humans right and their values, and decency that comes with decent work and a decent life,” said Barb Byers, an organizier for the Regina’s Women’s March.
“We also see it as an opportunity to reach out to our neighbours and our communities and say ‘we’re stronger when we stand together’.”
However, unlike Regina’s earlier marches, Regina’s event in 2019 had a focus it wanted to highlight.
“The specific goal in Regina this year is that we’ve chosen to highlight murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls,” said Byers. “
We were encouraging people to wear red or to have a red scarf.”
“The idea is to, again, focus on the question of all women but in particular Indigenous women, because of missing and murdered, because of the high levels of poverty and violence, and sexual assault Indigenous women and their families have.”
In 2016, the Government of Saskatchewan released a fact sheet which they titled “Aboriginal Peoples: Fact Sheet for Saskatchewan.”
The stats inside highlight that “on-reserve First Nations people most likely to live in crowded homes and homes requiring major repairs.”
The study also noted that in the age range of 12 to 24, 47.5 per cent of those surveyed excluding reserves reported that partake in heavy drinking.
More pertinent to the Women’s March, StatCanada reported in 2017 that “Indigenous women represent 10 per cent of the total population of missing women in Canada,” and also noted that in 2014, “the rate of homicide of Indigenous women was almost six times higher than non-Indigenous women.”
Byers said that the focus was meant to bring forward sustainable shifts in how society views women.
“If we’re goint to get change, and that’s organizational and long-term change, it’s got to be on the basis that women are included, Women of all ages, women of all backgrounds, races, religions, sexualities, gender expressions, abilities, all of it.”
When asked to describe how the Women’s March first began, Byers explained that the meaning behind the march, especially in Regina, has changed over time.
“The one that happened in 2017, which was really focused on Donald Trump’s election and the threats to female equality, it was a tremendous outpouring of women on the streets; it was incredible.”
“Last year there was the sense that although it had started out as a reaction to Donald Trump, the reality was that women face a lot of discrimination and difficulties in this province as well, and in this city. So the idea was, again, that we wanted to focus on the need for change for women here.”
“The same thing applies for this year,” Byser continues. “It is about women’s position here, as in particular issues that affect people and women in our community.”
According to their Facebook page, the Women’s March describes their mission as “inspiring, uniting and leading the charge for the advancement of women across Canada,” and also that the march is to “show that the progress made in 2017 was not enough. There is still so much work to do to protect and advance the rights of women, and the rights of all vulnerable citizens in our country.”
According to “Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report” by StatsCanada, released in July 2018, states that “Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the provinces with the largest shares of Aboriginal females.”
The report also stated that “the reported sexual assault rate was nearly three times higher for Aboriginal people” and that they experience “higher rates of physical assault.”
On the Women’s March Regina’s website, they describe the march’s theme as “focusing our efforts on Truth and Reconciliation as we recognize the staggering number of Indigenous women and girls disproportionately affected, victimized, missing, or murdered as a result of violence.”
“These are realities that require our immediate attention in order to shift the current trajectory and build a safe community for women and people of all genders to live, work, and play.”
If people are looking to help with organizing the march for next year, Byers said they are always looking for more organizers.
“We would love more help because more ideas bring more people in.”
“We know everybody’s got busy, busy lives and so it’s not always easy but this is something we can take the day for because we’re committed to social and economic justice, and it’s a big part of building a community, building sisterhood, building solidarity, and creating change,.”
When asked why Byers marches, she wanted to keep her motivation positive.
“Every time we do take action, we create change, and it may not be change that happens that day, or that week, or that month, but it is change.”,.
“We look to big events that happen in the world and we see it as one event that created the change, when in fact there were thousands of smaller events all over the place. I believe in people being on the streets together, walking for change together.”
Byers describes her encounter during the 2018 Women’s March in Saskatoon, discussing the importance of the event with other marchers.
“I remember speaking to a group of young women at the University of Saskatchewan last year, just a few days before the Women’s March.”
“I said ‘you know, if you don’t go, you’re always going to regret it when your granddaughter says to you ‘Grandma, were you there?’”
“Why do I go? It’s because I think that we create change by building bridges and creating action.”