About 60 people took part in a march through Langley City on Wednesday, May 5, to mark Red Dress Day in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Among them were the families of Kristina Ward and Shaylanna Lewis.
Ward, who was reported missing by her family in September 2017, was last seen on surveillance video at 144th Street and 104th Avenue sometime between 7:50 and 8:45 p.m., according to Langley RCMP. She was 21.
Her mother, Lee Anne Ward, told the Langley Advance Times she hoped the walk would raise public awareness about the numbers of young Indigenous women who have gone missing.
“I hope it raises awareness for everyone,” she said.
“It’s a crisis.”
Lewis, 23, was last seen on March 21, 2020, near Pure Lake, walking south on Highway 16.
Masset RCMP said Lewis apparently vanished without taking any of her belongings, including her cell phone.
Her grandfather, Bruce Brown, sang a Mohawk song that says “there is a river of life that’s flowing.”
“It has been a long year for my family,” Brown told the marchers.
“My heart breaks for my granddaughter, my daughter and my family.”
Participants carried signs bearing the names of the two missing women and wore shirts and carried signs that read “no more stolen sisters.” Almost everyone was wearing red.
The walk began and ended at the Langley City offices of the Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society.
Organizer Laura Sheck-Bell, who is housing team lead at the society, said it was the first time a walk for Red Dress Day has been held in Langley City, and it won’t be the last.
“We’re going to continue doing this as long as I’m around, and hopefully, that’ll be a long time,” Sheck-Bell told the marchers.
Langley City mayor Val van den Broek walked with them.
She did not speak at the event, and when asked, said she was there both as mayor and a private citizen.
Both the Ward and Brown families were ‘blanketed’ as a gesture of respect, wrapped in traditional blankets and bandannas.
Red Dress Day is observed May 5, and coincides with the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in the United States.
In 2019, a report by Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry found that inquiry found that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or to go missing than members of any other demographic group in the country, and 16 times more likely to be slain or to disappear than white women.
It described it as a “Canadian genocide.”
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