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Virtual ceremony for missing and murdered women in Maple Ridge

March put off this year because of COVID-19 pandemic
Yvonne Desabrais, organizer of the Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women in Maple Ridge, honoured the day virtually this year. (Yvonne Desabrais/Special to The News)

A virtual tribute in honour of murdered and missing women took place in Maple Ridge on Sunday.

Before the pandemic, Yvonne Desabrais organized marches through the downtown core to bring attention to the plight of Indigenous women and girls.

This was the seventh year for the event and Desabrais was determined to honour the day in any way she could.

“It’s just very spiritually symbolic,” said Desabrais of the seventh annual event and the Seven Teachings of First Nations: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth.

However, mindful of the Provincial Health Officer’s directions, instead of holding a march this year, she videotaped a performance by her niece’s family a week prior who came to Maple Ridge from Burnaby in support.

Then Desabrais posted the videos to the Memorial March of Maple Ridge Facebook page on Sunday, the official day of the march.

At the bandstand in Memorial Peace Park, Desabrais set up a table that held a ribbon skirt, a sage stick and smudge bowl and a symbolic mug for tea to have with her ancestors.

She encouraged online participants to have a cup of tea with her and post their own videos to the page on how they marked the event.

Her niece performed two songs with her husband and daughter: The Grandmother Song and The Warrior Song.

The Grandmother Song in honour of young sisters, said Desabrais, and The Warrior Song for the battle that Indigenous women and girls face every day to try and stay safe.

“Never mind stay alive,” said Desabrais.

“The awareness needs to be out there,” added Desabrais through tears.

“We deserve to be safe as women and Indigenous women. My daughter deserves to be safe and my great-niece.

“But, the chances of them having some sort of violent act done to them is really high, and that infuriates me.”

Desabrais doesn’t want to leave out Indigenous men, who are disappearing and being murdered too, she said.

On Sunday hundreds of people gathered in East Vancouver where the Women’s Memorial March has been taking place for 30 years.

Supporters gathered at Hastings and Main where family members of missing and murdered women addressed the crowd before marching through the streets.

“We deserve to be safe. Everybody deserves to be safe. This needs to change,” said Desabrais.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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