Mayra Jimenez of Ocho Tijax spoke throughout the Maritimes from February 28th to March 9th, in lead up to the 2nd anniversary of the Hogar Seguro tragedy. She visited Fredericton, Sackville, Halifax, Antigonish and Tatamagouche, sharing the story of the 56 girls.
The tragedy occurred on March 8, 2017. Police had locked 56 girls in a small room at a state-run centre for children and youth, Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion, in an effort to punish them for having attempted to escape. After a fire broke out, they refused to open the doors. As a result, 41 girls aged 13-17 were killed. While another 15 girls survived the fire, many continue to live with severe physical and psychological harm.
The Ocho Tijax collective, which Mayra co-founded, has been offering support to families of girls killed in the tragedy, as well as survivors since that day. Today, they provide legal accompaniment in the cases of the 14 victims and survivors, demanding justice for this state crime. Police commissioners, the former director of the Hogar Seguro and high-level government officials face charges for these crimes.
The speaking tour began in Fredericton. There, Mayra spoke at the University of New Brunswick’s Women’s Centre to a packed room. She then continued on to Sackville, where she spoke at Mount Allison University.
Throughout the speaking tour, the issue of state impunity for gendered violence in the Canadian context was also raised.
At our event in Halifax, Mayra was joined by Dr. Sherry Pictou, a Mi’kmaw woman from L’sɨtkuk and professor. Dr. Pictou shared: “When I heard this story, it immediately reminded me of the residential schools here and of the violence and abuse that took place in those schools and now of our struggle with the child welfare system. We have actually more Indigenous children in care than during residential schools, as well as the prison system. And, to me these systems are structures of violence and particularly against Indigenous women. It reminds me that we still have countless missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. This was long neglected in Canada.” In case you missed it, here’s a video.
In Antigonish, Mayra participated in a number of International Women’s Week events. On March 8th, the anniversary of the tragedy, Mayra was one of the guest speakers for the annual women’s breakfast. She shared: “We want people not to forget them in Canada, Europe, Latin America… They needed protection of the state and the state failed them.”
We marked the time the exact time (10:45am AST) that the fire began two years ago with a small gathering and vigil. Afterwards, we participated in the International Women’s Day rally and march. Mayra spoke about the tragedy and we invited marchers to hold commemorative portraits of each of the 41 girls killed, marking their presence with us.
In the afternoon, Mayra spoke alongside Andrea Currie, who is Saulteaux Métis from Manitoba, as well as a psychotherapist, writer musician and teacher. Andrea called the Canadian government to task for failing to protect Indigenous women. She spoke of police violence perpetrated against Indigenous women, including cases in Val-d’Or, Quebec that came to national attention in 2015. With regards to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, she shared, “We asked police to be investigated but the government refused.”
In Tatamagouche, Maryra was joined by Ishbel Munro, Coordinator of Apji-wla’matulinej (Righting Relations) and Women of First Light. Ishbel read a powerful letter from a 12 year old girl speaking out about violence against Indigenous women.
At each event, we read each of the names of the 41 girls killed in the tragedy. We continue to remember and demand justice for them. Over 2 years later, the legal cases haven’t advanced far. Moreover, attempts to have President Morales for his role in these crimes have not succeeded to date.
We also remember and echo calls for justice for Indigenous women, including Cassidy Bernard, 22, whose name by mentioned on various occasions throughout the speaking tour. She was murdered in her home in We’koqma’q First Nation, NS, last October and is survived by two twin girls. To date, there is no justice in her case.
We thank the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation for funding towards this project through the Member Engagement Fund.