National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence and Women events span Manitoulin

Carly Rickard, the new Manitoulin Family Resources program director, and MFR outreach counsellor Maureen Eadie hand ornaments on the Christmas tree in the MFR boardroom. The tree was later moved outside the building for the community to admire. photos by Michael Erskine

MANITOULIN – The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, or White Ribbon Day, takes place in Canada on December 6 each year to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre. While the reason for the day’s events cast a sombre timbre, most Island events went forward with positive vibes.

Manitoulin Family Resources (MFR) held two days of community gatherings where visitors could drop into the Haven House board room to try their hand at creating Christmas ornaments to hang upon a special tree that was placed outside for the community to admire.

“It is heartbreaking,” said Marnie Hall, MFR executive director, “but really important that we continue to honour their memory,” she said of the women commemorated in the Day of Remembrance. “We cannot change the past,” she said, but added that continuing to work towards ending violence against women with positive action is an important goal.

On Friday, the Wiikwemkoong council chamber was abuzz with activity as community members gathered to engage in art therapy and take in a workshop facilitated by Lisa Osawamick MSW RSW of Zaagidwin Counselling and Consulting.

“We had a very good turnout,” said co-organizer Dorothy Wassegijig-Kennedy of the day’s events, which began with a Remembrance Walk and continued on through the day with food, art therapy, traditional medicines and song.

Ms. Wassegijig-Kennedy took The Expositor through the flipchart notes on the presentation.

“It’s okay to say no,” said Ms. Wassegijig-Kennedy of the general theme of the discussions. Among the action items identified by those attending the workshop session were reporting abuse and violence to the police. “People need to have the confidence to speak up,” she said. “Lots of people are reluctant to speak up about the issue, that has to stop.”

The group suggested that a sign to that effect should be erected at the entrance to Wiikwemkoong. “We need a zero tolerance on abuse and violence,” she said.

Community members take part in a Remembrance Walk in Wiikwemkoong last week. photo by Kerry Assinewe

The group plans to set up a community committee to work on the various issues and ideas that came out of the workshop.

Among some of the positive ideas brought forward was the creation of more detailed family trees. “We need to know who we are related to,” said Ms. Wassegijig-Kennedy. “We need to concentrate on our Anishinaabe ways and re-create a culture of care.”

The community also needs to create their own victims’ services, she said. 

The days’ events were very valuable for those attending who have been victims of abuse and violence as they learned that they were not alone. “Lots of people have been affected by this,” said Ms. Wassegijig-Kennedy.

Dorothy Wassegijig-Kennedy stands ready by the flip chart board as she outlines the ideas put forward by community members during a workshop on preventing violence.