February 14th is not just Valentine’s Day, but also The Annual Rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It started 21 years ago in Downtown Eastside Vancouver because the family of a murdered woman wanted to show its love for the lost daughter on this day. Toronto joined Vancouver in this annual rally seven years ago due to a case investigation at that time. The event was organized by Toronto’s February 14th Organizing Committee comprised of No More Silence, The Native Youth Sexual Health Network and other Indigenous and feminist organizations working to raise awareness about the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women in Canada. The rally took place outside Toronto Police Headquarters in wet snow weather conditions.
A major concern brought up was that the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry taking place in Vancouver is a sham because many women witnesses are not safe to participate and the province is only paying counsel for the families of Robert Pickton’s victims. Instead, there is hope of a United Nations Inquiry through The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which comprises of 23 independent experts from around the world. In spite of negotiations, this inquiry may be in jeopardy. For more information, see the links below.
To call the spirits of the ancestors, people held a small cup of water and a strawberry as drum-singers did a few songs. Turning toward all directions while raising our cups, marked the Anishinabe song. The water symbolized women as life comes through women and life is carried in the womb in water. Strawberries are a symbol of love and courage, and just as strawberry plants may grow in different places, but their roots meet underground, so it symbolizes human solidarity. The shape of strawberries was likened to human hearts. After the singing ceremony, some of the water was poured to the ground as an offering to the ancestors and the rest people drank. The strawberries were also eaten, leaves first as the speaker suggested, because the leaves are medicine.
Here are some articles regarding negotiations for a UN Inquiry toward missing and murdered Indigenous women:
Amna Siddiqui was Assistant Publication’s Director at WCSA, University of Toronto from 2006-2007. Having evolved as an eco-feminist, she has been involved with Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, ACSA’s Forced Marriage Project, Toronto Environmental Alliance and Green Toronto Community Stewardship Program.