Dozens of people marched across downtown Vancouver on Friday in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous boys, men and two-spirit people across the country.
The second-annual march was held as a call for justice, with families saying their loved ones' disappearances and deaths have not captured the public's attention as they should have.
"When my son died, there was nobody. We felt all alone. Today, I feel so uplifted, seeing all these people, that our prayers are being answered," said Eugenia Oudie, whose son, Charles, was found dead near the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver on Sept. 6, 2015.
The crowd gathered at Vancouver Police Department's headquarters before marching across the Cambie Street bridge to Creekside Park, near Olympic Village.
"[We march] for our brothers and warriors, an uncle, a dad, a son, a grandchild — to acknowledge their names," said Loretta John, whose brother-in-law, Everett Jones, vanished from Duncan, on Vancouver Island, in 2016.
"He's still missing, he's still part of the family and we just want closure," she continued. "We're not getting washed under the bridge anymore."
In 2020, Indigenous men were four times more likely to die by homicide than an Indigenous woman and seven times more likely to die by homicide than non-Indigenous people in Canada.
Statistics Canada said men accounted for more than 80 per cent of the 201 Indigenous people killed that year — meaning the number of Indigenous men who died by homicide reached its highest level since 2014.
Indigenous men are most likely to be killed in Canada, followed by Indigenous women.
"We want that awareness to continue to spread through the Canadian mosaic to have them understand: Why are Indigenous people still at the bottom? We're at the bottom, still being unseen, unrecognised," said march founder Curtis Ahenakew, a member of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Eugenia Oudie's family hired its own investigator to look into Charles' death after officials ruled it was an accident. She is working to obtain her Master's degree in First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia, with a focus on missing and murdered men and boys.
"We should find a balance with the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls ... we need to uplift our men with healing," she said.
Last month, the federal government announced $95.8 million in new funding over five years for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous people. At the time, Justice Minister David Lametti said a portion of the money will offer services to the families of male victims.