Valentine’s Day rallies have people asking about protection for Indigenous women

In Ottawa people braved freezing temperatures to come out and support Laurie Odjick and wonder where the government is when it comes to protecting Indigenous women.

Odjick’s daughter Maisy and her friend Shannon Alexander went missing in 2008.

She said that the government needs to be held to account.

“Because there’s no help out there for families like us, there’s none. Yes, I mean we have vigils and everything but we need stronger support.”

This is the tenth straight year for the Valentine’s Day rally in Ottawa.

This year had a theme.

Eight months ago, the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released across the river in Gatineau, Que.

An official response from the federal government is still forthcoming.

“I honestly believe the government wanted a good tap on the back you know to say that they did something for our families when actual reality it’s nothing,” she said. “It brought us you know again sharing our stories and going through that trauma over and over again.

“And we do it because we want to be heard.”

Francyne Joe is the former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

She helped organize the rally and wonders when the government will response to the report’s 231 calls for justice.

“It’s been far too long. We had the election. There’s minimal promises made and really we’re tired of the promises. I’m still meeting with families across the country who are disappointed. And they want to see action.

“And I think in 2020 they deserve to see that action.”

Odjick said she would settle for just one of those calls to be fulfilled.

“Support you know in terms of mental health and something that the families don’t have and we don’t have that,” she said.

Joe said she vows to not let those calls, and the report, sit on a shelf and gather dust.

“No we need to continue bringing this report up. If the government funded this report, they stand behind this report.

“And that’s going to take money and programs and Indigenous collaboration.”

Crown Indigenous Relations said in a statement to APTN News that its still working on an action plan with stakeholders.

In Vancouver, one of the largest crowds seen on the rally day marched by the Downtown Eastside.

The area is notoriously linked to Indigenous women disappearing into the night.

Thousands of people came out including Ang MacDougall.

“I have not seen any of the reccomendations come into play but that’s that work we have to do,” she said. “We can never expect  government to take these things seriously.”