October 18, 2017

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10TH ANNUAL STRAWBERRY CEREMONY FOR MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN, GIRLS, TRANS, AND TWO SPIRIT PEOPLE AND THOSE WHO HAVE DIED VIOLENT DEATHS

10TH ANNUAL STRAWBERRY CEREMONY FOR MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN, GIRLS, TRANS, AND TWO SPIRIT PEOPLE AND THOSE WHO HAVE DIED VIOLENT DEATHS

TO ALL NEWS EDITORS -IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

WHAT: Gathering at Toronto Police Headquarters

WHEN: Saturday Feb 14th at 12:30 pm

WHERE: 50 College Street

 

Since we gathered last year on this date, there has been unprecedented media and public attention on missing and murdered Indigenous women. However the violence continues and Indigenous women are still going missing, facing violence, and being murdered.  This is our 10th annual Strawberry Ceremony and it has been 2 years since the stories of three Indigenous women who passed away under violent and suspicious circumstances in Toronto have become known. Cheyenne Fox was 20 and a mother when she fell from the 24th floor of a condo in April 2013. Terra Gardner was killed by a train only a few weeks later and Bella Laboucan-McLean fell from the 31st floor of a downtown condo in July of the same year. We honour these women and seek justice for the many women, Two-Spirit people and their families and communities whose stories have not been in the media. We stand behind the families who advocate for justice in all its forms.

The family of Cheyenne Fox continues to advocate for justice. The Fox family has filed a statement of claim against the Toronto Police Services Board charging the failure of police to respond to three 911 calls pertaining to Cheyenne.  To date, Terra Gardner’s case has not been reopened despite many suspicious occurrences known to police, including death threats she received prior to her passing.  While the police deemed the death of Bella Laboucan-McLean “suspicious”, nearly two years later the case has been categorized as idle and Bella’s family are still waiting for answers as to what happened to their loved one.

It is vital that we name specific forms of state violence. We understand that gender-based violence is a core and fundamental feature of settler colonialism, a political structure that is driven by hetero-patriarchy, racism, and violence to uphold ongoing occupation of Indigenous lands and resources. When police and government fail to acknowledge or act when it comes to instances of violence against Indigenous women, focusing instead on victim-blaming, failing to implement the hundreds of recommendations brought forth by families–the existing systemic conditions of gender-based violence are maintained.  We stand in defense of our lives and to demonstrate against the complicity of the state in the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women and the impunity of state institutions and actors (such as police, RCMP, coroners’ offices, the courts, and an indifferent federal government) that prevents justice for all Indigenous peoples.

 

“We reject the notion that any top-down, state-led approach to ending violence against Indigenous women and girls will be effective. Generations and legacies of experience have shown us how government-led inquiries are ultimately ineffective in bringing transformative change and will be, by their very nature, influenced by colonial power dynamics.”  says Krysta Williams of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, one of the members of the planning committee. “Many families and communities have worked tirelessly over decades and we acknowledge that it is those affected by the violence– families, communities and Indigenous Nations–who have the answers”.

In Vancouver, “the February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March is held on Valentine’s Day each year to honour the memory of women from the Downtown Eastside who have died due to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual violence. Now in its 25th year, the march brings courage and commitment to remember and honour murdered and missing women and to end the violence that vulnerable women in the DTES face on a daily basis.” (Organizing Committee Media Release)

This will be the 10th year in a row that Indigenous community members and their supporters in Toronto have been gathering at police headquarters. The ceremony is an important space for grieving family members and community to honour their own missing and murdered love ones. Close to 70 women’s names adorn signs and are printed on brochures handed out at the event, Native women from Ontario who have died violent deaths primarily over the last 30 years.

 

One of the long standing organizing groups, No More Silence has recently launched a community database and initiative documenting violent deaths of Native women nation wide. “We do not look to the state for solutions but rather to strengthening our community’s capacity to take care of itself.” says co-founder, Audrey Huntley. “It makes sense to us to take direction from family members and to work intergenerationally so we are really excited about our partnership with Ottawa based Families of Sisters In Spirit and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.” The database, which is independent of government funding, fills a gap left by the funding cuts and subsequent shutdown of the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Sisters In Spirit program. For more information please visit www.itstartswithus-mmiw.com

 

Initiated by No More Silence in 2004, the gathering and ceremony at police headquarters is now organized by a committee made up of community members and groups including the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, The Native Women’s Resource Centre, Maggie’s Toronto and Sistering. It is endorsed and supported by a wide range of public interest groups, churches, unions, university groups and local agencies. Over 600 people attended in 2014.

 

Marches will also be held in at least 10 other cities including Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal, Sudbury, Thunderbay, Edmonton and Calgary. https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/national/

 

February 14th Organizing Committee (No More Silence, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Sistering, Maggie’s Toronto)

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Audrey Huntley, No More Silence, 647-981-2918

Sheryl Lindsay, Sistering, 416-926-9762

Krysta Williams, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, kwilliams@nativeyouthsexualhealth.com

 

 

 

The event is endorsed by:

Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto,

Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, Aboriginal Student Services of George Brown College, Anti-Colonial Committee in the Law Union of Ontario, Muskrat Magazine, Chocolate Woman Collective, Toronto Conference Living Into Right Relations Circle, OCAP, AWCCA – George Brown College, LEAF, The Centre for Women and Trans People at the University of Toronto, OPIRG-Toronto, Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women against Rape, The Department for Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, OCAP, SASSL, Independent Jewish Voices, NOII-Toronto, Bureau Kensington, Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women (LSC), The Redwood, Toronto York Region Metis Council, Church of the Redeemer, Avenue Rd & Bloor, Community Action Centre of the Student Association at George Brown College, CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group at York, Shameless Magazine, UTSC Women and Trans* Centre, Red Pepper Spectacle, Bold as Love, Aboriginal Studies Program at UofT, Law Union of Ontario, CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group, The Church of St Stephen-in-the-Field, Law Practice of Mary Ebert, Socialist Action, Black Lives Matter Toronto, El-Tawhid Juma Circle Mosques, Bathurst United Church, DAWN Ontario, Rojava Solidarity Collective, Bad Subject, Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, Sack Gold Blatt Mitchell LLP, Rising Tide Toronto, 2 Spirited People of The 1st Nations, GTAC Greater Toronto Area Council of Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University, International Womens Day 2015 organizing committee, , Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, CUPE Ontario, CUPE Local 3906, OPSEU Greater Toronto Area Council, Toronto350.org, AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development), Infinite Reach- Métis Student Network at U of T, Aboriginal Students’ Association at York (ASAY) , The Public Witness Circle of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, Sam Gindon Chair at Ryerson University, Idle No More, Toronto, Aboriginal Law Students’ Association, The Indigenous Student Association at Ryerson, Trinity-St. Paul’s, The Community Action Centre at George Brown College, The Aboriginal Law Club at the University of Toronto, University of Toronto Faculty of Law Aboriginal Law, Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC), Trinity-St. Paul’s, The Zeitgest Movement Toronto, The Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto Centre, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) Canada, Women in Solidarity with Palestine (WSP), Stop the Jewish National Fund, Canada, Toronto Seed Library, The Toronto Anarchist Black Cross, The Dream Team , Kapwa Collective, Ryerson Aboriginal Educational Council, Greenpeace Canada, Pantayo Kulintang Ensemble, Parkdale Community Recreation Center (PARC), 90-Day Challenge to End Violence Against Women in Conflict at U of T, Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, ARK II – Animal Rights Kollective, Elizabeth Fry Society Toronto, Trans Pride Toronto, Arts and Science Students’ Union at U of T, Workers United Canada, Toronto Forum on Cuba, Aboriginal Council of Midwives, Kwentong Bayan Collective, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

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