By Clint Buehler
EDMONTON – The cross country walk to draw attention to missing and murdered women is proving to be an eventful journey for the women who walk and for their supporters.
The Walk 4 Justice was organized by Bernie Williams and Gladys Radek, whose niece, Tamara Lynn Chipman has been missing for almost three years. It began as a way to raise awareness of the 18 women who have gone missing or been murdered on British Columbia’s Highway of Tears to Prince George, but soon became a national venture.
The 20 or so women making the trek left Vancouver on June 21 and arrived in Edmonton at the beginning of July. They plan to reach Ottawa by September 15 when they plan to hold a rally on Parliament Hill and demand a public inquiry into the “scandal” of missing Canadian women, estimated to number about 3,000.
“I look at this as Canada’s dirty little secret,” Williams told an Edmonton Journal reporter.
“It was particularly emotional for us—we know that there have been women in the Edmonton area who have fallen prey to whoever’s out there. We understand the pain of their friends and families.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Dean Brown, acting executive director of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre:
“It’s really important to honour all of the murdered and missing women from across Canada,” he told the Edmonton Sun.. “There needs to be awareness around this and we need people doing stuff to help end this.
The stop in Edmonton took a dramatic turn when two Elders were struck by a vehicle and were taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries. The incident occurred at the River Cree Resort and Casino on the Enoch Reserve on Edmonton’s western outskirts, when the lead car carrying the Elders collided with another vehicle when it swerved to try and pass them as the group was leaving after a welcome hospitality break.
The group then proceeded to the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, arriving about an hour behind schedule, where they were greeted by about 40 supporters for an evening of “sharing, solidarity and music.” The walkers were also offered food and a place to sleep by the Centre.
There was one final uplifting postscript to the Edmonton visit:
Elana Papin and her three teenager daughters had been forced to stop walking in memory of her sister, Georgina Papin, due to lack of funds for food and lodging on the two month journey. Georgina was one of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton, and Elana felt it was essential she be represented on the journey.
When Elana’s dilemma was publicized, an anonymous donor came forward to cover expenses so could rejoin the walk with daughters Erica, 15, River, 14, and Summer, 13.