This photograph depicts participants at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Memorial March, held annually in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, on Valentine’s Day. The march was initiated by First Nations women in 1992 when the body of Cheryl Anne Joe was found dismembered on a downtown Vancouver street corner. The march became an annual event to honour the lives of murdered and missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It also draws attention to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence that many women face everyday.
Although the Canadian federal police (RCMP) reported that there were 1,181 police-recorded incidents of murdered and unresolved missing Aboriginal females between 1980 and 2012—164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims—the former Conservative federal government long rejected requests for a national inquiry. In 2015, Canada’s newly elected Liberal federal government announced it would undertake the national inquiry.
The Allard Prize Photography Competition jury selected this photograph for its powerful reminder of the injustice and inequality faced by many women and minority groups, in particular Indigenous women, and the frequent insufficiency of government response to crimes committed against individuals from these groups, even in developed nations.
Jeff Topham is a professional photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker based in Vancouver, Canada. His photographs have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, and The Globe and Mail. In 2013, his documentary film Liberia 77 was featured at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.