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Candles 560The names of each of the 14 victims of the École Polytechnique de Montréal shooting were read aloud at a vigil hosted by CFUW Southport December 6.

Hub Staff

The Southport chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) hosted their 26th vigil in Coulter Parkette on a sunny but cool Tuesday afternoon, December 6. The occasion was not only to commemorate the 14 women who died on the same day 27 years ago in what has become known as the Montreal Massacre, but also to educate and take a stand against gender based violence.

On December 6, 1989, 14 women, mostly students, were gunned down at École Polytechnique de Montréal - because they were women. Heather Conlin, Southport CFUW President, said that the vigil, which had about 120 in attendance, nearly triple the number of recent years, was a way to honour the victims but also “to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also an opportunity to consider women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality and to remember those who have died as a result of this violence.”

Laura Wolfe was next to speak. After introducing her son Zachary and daughter Jaylynn, she spoke about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). “The numbers we reflect on today - 14 - brings us such sadness; when we hear about the missing and murdered indigenous women, the number 1,200 plus is associated with it. Yes, the number’s tragic but the most heartbreaking part of this number is the plus sign.” Wolfe went on to mention various campaigns and initiatives bringing awareness for MMIW, including the Faceless Doll Project by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black and finally the Moose Hide Campaign.

While Zachary and Jaylynn handed out moose hide pins to those in attendance, Laura explained. “The Moose Hide Campaign is a grassroots movement of aboriginal and non aboriginal men who stand up against violence for women and children,” she said. “Wearing the moose hide pin signifies your commitment to honour, respect and protect the women and children in your life and to work together with... other men to end the violence against women and children.”

The Moose Hide Campaign came to be near a stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia where an Indigenous man was hunting with his daughter. The 724 kilometre section of Yellowhead Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, became so-called because of the reported dozens of women, mostly Indigenous, who have either disappeared or been found murdered between 1969 and 2006. The man decided that his daughter deserved to have a life free of violence and thought, what if they use a moose hide to inspire men to become involved. “Together with family and friends, they cut up the moose hide into small squares and started the Moose Hide Campaign,” said Wolfe.

Now, five years later, Wolfe says over 500,000 squares have been distributed across Canada with the goal being a million.

“Why do we continue to raise awareness for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women? We do this in hope that we can be the voice for someone who hasn’t found theirs yet,” concluded Wolfe.

She and her daughter Jaylynn then read a story together, one that Jaylynn wrote and that is being shared across Canada, courtesy of the NWAC.

I am 8 year old Jaylynn Wolfe and this is my story. When my mom told me about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis, I took a big breath. How could this happen? Why? I had a lot of questions.

I asked my mom questions about why these Indigenous women were treated so badly? Why were they murdered? Why was no one looking for them? I asked my mom if this was going to happen to me?

I was scared. I started to cry. I wished I wasn't native. I wished I was a boy. No one should be scared to be an Indigenous girl or woman.

Please do not let his happen to me. Miigwech.

Before offering an Anishnaabe song, Theresa Root from the Saugeen Women Handdrummers reminded attendees of the importance of balance. The four women singers and handdrummers were accompanied by Theresa’s brother, Dave Root. “I have my brother here to represent that balance between man and woman and that we always seek balance in our lives and everything that we do,” said Theresa.

Pat Sanagan, Secretary for CFUW Southport, said that violence against women extends into all communities and offered some statistics. “The Public Health Agency of Canada in its most recent statistical review, 2014, reported on about 134,000 cases of family violence. Three quarters of victims were women, 20,000 of those victims were under 20 years of age,” said Sanagan. She added that in 2016, 500 RCMP officers received compensation for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and 1,000 regular armed forces personnel reported sexual assault and harrassment. “One quarter of all females in the military report sexual assault at least once in their military careers.”

Sanagan continued. “The World Health Organization and the United Nations Declaration Against Violence Against Women indicates there is one primary risk factor and it’s gender. It’s because we are women,” she said, adding, “Today we mourn and then we act.”

CFUW Southport’s Cheryl Kryzaniwsky then lead the group through a remembrance. “We remember 14 Montreal women, shining potential shattered in a rain of bullets December 6, 1989. These were those women, please reflect and remember.”

Each holding a candle, 14 individuals including community members to CFUW members to members of Saugeen Shores Council, stepped forward, reading aloud the names of the 14 women:

Anne-Marie Lemay, Anne-Marie Edward, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Barbara Daigneault, Hélène Colgan, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Maud Haviernick, Michèle Richard, Nathalie Croteau, Sonia Pelletier, Geneviève Bergeron.

Following the singing of Let There Be Peace On Earth, CFUW’s Pat McCutcheon gave thanks to everyone in attendance. “Every year we have been encouraged by the larger group and for the representation from our community, this year we have exceeded both.” She recognized Saugeen Shores Council, Saugeen First Nation, Saugeen District Secondary, and the "many, many others" in attendance. “We appreciate you joining us and remembering all the women who have been murdered and also for helping us to work toward a world without violence and abuse.”

McCutcheon explained there are various resources that are available to women in our area from the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey to the Kabaeshiwin Respite Women’s Shelter at Saugeen First Nation, and the Victims Services of Bruce Grey Perth.

“They are always seeking volunteers and donations,” said McCutcheon, adding that any donations made at the vigil will be shared between Kabaeshiwin Respite Women’s Shelter and Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey.

She then shared a personal story about a woman who had approached her in a local store. McCutcheon had been in an accident and, as a result, had several bruises. “She very quietly took me aside and offered me assistance and phone numbers to call for advice.” McCutcheon said the woman had herself been a victim of domestic violence. “What a great and kind woman she was to speak to me about what might have been abuse, so this is just an example of some of the things that we can do and have the courage to do to work as individuals.”

Chantry Singers then shared their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Heather 560Heather Conlin, President CFUW Southport, got the day underway December 6 in Coulter Parkette.

Moose 560Jaylynn Wolfe, dressed in her jingle dress regalia, walked through the record crowd at Coulter Parkette December 6 handing out pieces of moose hide as part of the Moose Hide Campaign.

Wolfe 560Laura Wolfe (right) and her daughter Jaylynn Wolfe worked together to read a story that Jaylynn wrote and that is being shared across Canada.

SFN Singers 560From left, Saugeen First Nation drummers Ellen Brown, Renita Nawash, Theresa Root and Joyce Besito were joined by Dave Root (in back) to help create balance between man and woman.

PatSanagan 560CFUW Southport’s Pat Sanagan offered some startling statistics.

Cheryl 560CFUW Southport’s Cheryl Kryzaniwsky guided those in attendance through a remembrance of the 14 victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique de Montréal shooting.

Candles2 560Many community groups and organizations were represented at the December 6 Montreal Vigil, including Saugeen Shores Council.

PatMcCutcheon 560Pat McCutcheon asked those in attendance to have courage to do what is needed to help work toward a world without violence and abuse.

ChantrySingers 560The Chantry Singers closed the day’s proceedings with their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

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