By Colleen Kimmett, The Tyee, January 30, 2010

An annual march in honour of murdered and missing women in Vancouver will take place next month despite the Olympic crowds and beefed-up security. The Women’s Memorial March, which takes place each February 14th, was launched after a woman was brutally murdered in the city’s Downtown Eastside 19 years ago.

Organizer Angela Marie MacDougall said there were initially rumours the march would be canceled this year because of the Games, but said the city and police department are aware of the event and have given it the green light.

“I think everybody realizes the important role of this march in this community,” said MacDougall, who added that its cancellation would have been a risky move given anti-Olympic sentiment in the city. Macdougall said she hopes the national and international spotlight on Vancouver during that time will raise the profile of the march itself and the issue of violence against women — particularly aboriginal women.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented more than 500 cases of murdered or missing women over the past 30 years. In B.C., there has been increasing public pressure for a police inquiry into women who have met with violence on provincial highways.

“It’s getting harder and harder to ignore these issues,” said MacDougall, who spoke at an art auction last night held to raise money for Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services. Violence against aboriginal women, she said, is “the ultimate symptom of colonization.”

The Women’s Memorial March starts at noon on February 14 at the Carnegie Community Centre. Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.