Unified strength bellowed from Tofino’s First Street Dock on Sunday morning as a cross-Island memorial walk to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women, men and children set off from Tofino.
The walk, entitled ‘Honouring Our Children: Remember Their Names,’ began in Tofino on May 29 and is expected to end at the BC Legislature in Victoria on June 4.
Grieving Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation mothers Martha Martin and Carol Manson linked arms to lead Sunday’s roughly 40-kilometre walk from Tofino to the West Coast junction.
Manson’s son Julian Jones was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP on Feb. 27, 2021.
The shooting is currently under investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of BC.
Martin’s daughter Chantel Moore was shot and killed by a police officer during a wellness check at her home in Edmundston, New Brunswick, on June 4, 2020.
Martin’s son Mike Martin died in police custody just five months later.
The jury in an inquest into Moore’s death ruled the shooting a homicide on May 19, 2022, and the family’s lawyer recently announced a civil suit will be filed against the Edmundston police.
“We’ve gathered to bring more awareness to the deaths of people who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement and to bring more light to it,” Martin told the Westerly News at the dock on Sunday. “We lose people by shootings and nobody ever talks about it and not everybody is lucky enough to get an inquiry for their children, so this is to bring more awareness and to honour our children as well.”
She added that gathering together is important to share strength and healing while putting a spotlight on the tragedies First Nations families are experiencing.
“It’s very important. These things take place and nobody talks about them, they just end up being swept up under the rug and we still keep losing people,” she said. “For me, it was really hard. You never think that it can happen to you and then it happens…Shedding light onto it, for me, has been about pushing myself harder to fight for that change so that no other mother has to do this.”
Prior to the walk setting off, Ahousaht First Nation members joined the gathering at the dock to share songs and prayers.
“The most important thing is to support our other Nations in the Nuu-chah-nulth area in such an event that’s to bring awareness,” Ahousaht cultural support worker Walter Thomas told the Westerly. “It hurts. It hurts definitely. The heart breaks to see people suffer a loss in such a manner. It’s heartbreaking, but to share songs and culture is what helps us ease our hearts.”
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Anna Masso participated in a walk to honour Moore’s legacy last year and returned to repeat the experience this year.
“It’s our culture. We get strength from each other…We need to create this awareness. We really need to stay the course and support Martha,” she said, adding she was prepared for an emotional journey. “It drains you…This year, once we finish up at the Ucluelet junction, I’ll go home to Port Alberni and have a debriefing set up to help me deal with how weak I am going to feel after this and the week forward. We get a lot of cultural support from our own people and our ways. That’s what we rely on.”
The ‘Honouring Our Children: Remember Their Names’ memorial walk was expected to continue on Monday at 9 a.m. from Port Alberni to Parksville before heading into Nanaimo on May 31 and arriving at the Legislature on June 4.