by Marnie Hall Brown
MANITOULIN—Some of us remember the now grainy television footage of a snowy day in December when we were horrified by images of a Canadian school shooting. Such headlines, unfortunately, no longer stand out, but on December 6, 1989 it seemed as though an unimaginable event had happened.
Ambulances, paramedics, police, caution tape, and victims of a shooting were images that we did not know how to associate with attending school in Canada. What came to be understood in the days and weeks that followed was the knowledge that this act had been quite deliberate and purposeful, with an intent that the victims had no way to shield themselves from. Having been born female and living in Canada, 14 young women lost their lives that day though one man’s act of violence. A turning point in our history gave birth to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and December 6 was came to be known as the day to First Mourn, then Work for Change.
Twenty-six years later we can sadly say that, on average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. This too is often a headline that no longer stands out. As we have come to know more about the realities of intimate partner violence, through education, research, and survivor’s stories, we have a better understanding that fatalities will occur in these situations. We have learned a great deal from the high cost paid by victims that we’ve lost, and we owe it to them to continue to learn, and address the issues that allow a woman in this country to be killed every six days. In small communities such as our own, this work towards change brings its own unique challenges. When partner violence results in a fatality, the fabric of a family is torn in ways many cannot understand. The family that remains behind is left to address the absence, and the community provides the environment in which they do so.
Over the years, Manitoulin Family Resources has held vigils on December 6 to remember the women and children whose lives were lost due to acts of violence against women. Many women and some children from most, if not all, of our Island communities are included. Our communities have lost daughters, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers, and the loss of these women continues to be felt within a family as life moves forward. It begs the question as to how we, as community members, support the family in mending that fabric, and ensure that others do not have the same experience. Ignoring the reality of what has occurred, and hoping that nothing like that will happen again in our small communities, is not working for change.
This year, in the days leading up to December 6, Manitoulin Family Resources will be offering remembrance candles for individuals to take freely from a variety of locations. We invite our fellow community members to light a candle on December 6 to remember the lives of 14 women whose loss caused our nation to recognize the reality of violence against women in Canada. We invite you to engage in conversation with those near you about how we can change the current reality that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. And we invite you to give thought as to how we will continue to support families who have experienced these preventable tragedies, and not shy away from a truth and reality that could then easily re-occur.
For those who would like to be able to engage in a group activity to honour this day, there will be a full-day event held in Wikwemikong on Monday, December 7. This event will take place through partnerships with the Wikwemikong Health Centre, the Wikwemikong Heritage Organization, the Wikwemikong Public Library, Ngwaagan Gamig Recovery Centre Inc., and the M’Nidoo Minissing Coalition Against Domestic Violence, beginning at 9 am with a pipe ceremony at the Wiky Thunderdome Arena. No matter how you choose to mark December 6, or how you choose to address the issues of woman abuse or intimate partner violence, please recognize a choice is made. Silence is a choice. Support is a choice. Working towards change in our communities, as we face and address these issues, is a choice we can make together.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Marnie Hall Brown is the executive director of Manitoulin Family Resources.