People are playing Pokémon Go at the monument for missing and murdered Indigenous women in Winnipeg—the city that's been called ground zero for the national crisis.
Kyle Kematch, co-founder of Winnipeg's Drag The Red, noticed Pokemon enthusiasts at the monument the very same week Canada launched its long-awaited inquiry into the more than 1,200 Indigenous women who have disappeared or been murdered since 1980.Kematch, who leads a group of volunteers who search the Red River for the remains of missing people, was disappointed by what he saw, so he schooled the players on the issue.After the 101 class, "they backed away kindly," he wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.
The problem wasn't that they were playing the game, he offered—it was that they were walking over the stones at the base of the monument, and using it as a bench or head rest, seemingly oblivious to its significance.
Kematch told VICE he asked them if they knew what the statue represents. They said no.
"It's a statue of our missing and murdered women—a symbol that they are not forgotten," he told them. "It's not a place to sit on. This statue means a lot to us who have someone missing or has been murdered. When you sit on that statue like that, it disrespects us family members who are still suffering."
Kematch lost his own sister, Amber, five years ago. She was last seen on November 10, 2010, climbing into a red pickup truck in a low-income Winnipeg neighbourhood. The 20-year-old is still missing.
Installed two years ago at The Forks in Winnipeg, the white granite memorial is meant as a place to mourn lost loved ones, especially for families who haven't found the remains of their relatives and have no grave site to visit.
This week wasn't the first time Pokémon Go players have been caught sitting on the monument.
It's been happening at least since July 23, when journalist Martha Troian tweeted a photo showing people grouped around the monument, looking at their phones, and two people sitting on the stones at the base of the statue.
And it's not the first time Pokémon Go enthusiasts have been spotted playing at disrespectful locations.
In July, players drew criticism for flocking to the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City to catch Pokemon.
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