Ending femicide is the responsibility of everyone

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Editorial – As the month of November draws to a close we are reminded of the continuing scourge of femicide that continues to plague our province. Yet even as the purple flag rises on flag poles across Manitoulin to mark the Wrapped in Courage Campaign another woman dies each week.

Has murder in our society become so regular an occurrence that we, as a society, have become inured to the horror? Within the span of a single lifetime, there was a time when any murder would engender banner headlines across the nation. Today we scroll on by with little thought or concern unless the murder has immediate impact on our lives and communities.

This indifference must end.

Each one of us has a social responsibility to stand against these senseless murders. It is an absurdity beyond credulity that those persons who bear and nurture life within their wombs should die due to their gender.

There are those whose credo is “spare the rod and spoil the child” and who lament the end of corporal punishment, pointing to the lack of a good whopping as the solution to the world’s ills. In truth, the normalization of violence in our society lies front, square and centre among the causes of assault and, yes, murder. Until violence is no longer tolerated under any circumstance, violence will remain nurtured within our culture. 

Our children must learn that violence is not okay or a legitimate source of comedy or entertainment. In short, in the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, each and every one of us must “teach our children well.”

If we are unwilling to gaze into the dark corners, nothing will change

To the Expositor:

As many of you are aware, November is Woman Abuse Prevention Month. For the past 30 years, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses (OAITH) has tracked the intentional killing of women in the Province of Ontario, and for the past 10 years it has organized the Wrapped in Courage campaign to draw awareness to the issue and the need for so many changes. Manitoulin Family Resources, as a member of OAITH, takes part in all of these events, attempting to raise awareness of the realities of gender-based violence, the resulting desperate needs for systems change, for dedicated resources in these fields and, most importantly, to call for the end of these killings.

With 30 years of documented research of femicide in Ontario behind us, it is difficult to understand why we haven’t made more progress in stopping what are completely preventable tragedies. When people hear “Woman Abuse Prevention Month” they start to replace the words with “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence,” both of which are part of the issue of gender-based violence, but also negate the specificity to women as victims and neither are complete in their description. We use the word femicide for a reason: it is the intentional murder of women because they are women. It may be by someone with whom they have had an intimate or domestic relationship, it may be someone known to them, or it may be a targeted killing by someone they have never met. There may or may not be complexities involved between the people, but the end result is based on the woman having her right to live forcibly taken from her. In these cases it is not her choice and it is not an accident. Whatever the motivating precipitating factor is that contributes to this murder, had she not been born female, her chance to survive would have been higher. How bizarre it is that that can be a reality in Ontario—in 2022?

The December 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women continues to serve as a reminder of the brutality of gender-based violence. Sadly, that day served as a wake-up call to recognize the disparity of safety and perception of rights afforded to women in this country. Less than six months ago, yet another wake-up call was offered through the Renfrew County Inquest. This inquest examined the circumstances of the triple-murder of Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzyk, all of whom were killed by a single man known to them. The jury of the inquest provided a list of 86 recommendations based on this tragedy, not the least of which was asking for intimate partner violence to be declared an epidemic and identifying a host of missed opportunities that might have prevented these unnecessary murders in a small rural community. How many wakeup calls and missed opportunities do we need before we start to make real changes, in our society, in our communities, that will save lives? When do we, as individuals, move from accepting these brutalities to addressing them? When do we say that 52 names on an incomplete femicide list for a province is too many in a year? When do we say that that shouldn’t have been the fate for any of the victims who, this year, ranged in age from 8 to 88? When do we go deeper into the hard questions? Like, how does a family heal and overcome the loss of someone taken from them simply because someone else decided that was their fate? These losses are tragedies, but unlike accidental poisonings and motor vehicle collisions, these are executions—preventable murders—of which we are largely complacent.

In the years since the Montreal Massacre, Manitoulin Family Resources has hosted remembrance ceremonies on December 6, providing the community with an opportunity to come together and reflect on these issues, and remember our local women who have been lost to us. Over the decades many women came forward to agency staff, asking that their mothers’ names be added, women whose passings had not been formally recorded as gender-based violence killings. As we move closer to this year’s event I find my mind frequently drawn to the memories of four particular women of this region, all of whom were young mothers at the time they were killed, and the children left behind. Two called the Island home, two were from the Espanola area. In three of the four cases it was the father of her children who was directly responsible for her death, each woman having died by gunshot. All three cases went before the courts, there was a conviction of some sort acknowledging his primary role in the killing, and there was jail time ordered. And, in each of those cases, the father had custody returned to him after his sentence was served. I think of those children and wonder what, if any, peace they have found in these years. 

Gender-based violence is so prevalent in our society that we may read the headline or story, but then we keep moving through our day. What message does that send, that we aren’t more appalled or outraged? What message does that send to the families and children of those women, that we don’t even take time to acknowledge the impact of their execution? It seems we are okay to acknowledge that gender-based violence happens, just not to ask the difficult and necessary questions that might create change. When will we be bold enough to acknowledge that the elephant that we are tiptoeing around in the room is actually the dead body of a woman that mattered to people, and who deserved to live a full life? If we don’t look at gender-based violence in its entirety, including the dark corners that are uncomfortable, it will not change.

So, as we move through Woman Abuse Prevention Month, I will gently ask that you look for the opportunities to support victims of gender-based violence, and those who were affected by the ripples of their loss. I will ask that you not simply accept that one in two women will experience this sort of personal violence in their lives when you see a headline but be outraged that it continues. I will ask that you consider voicing your opinion to our political leaders, that an underfunded violence against women sector that does not have enough beds to provide safety to women and children and doesn’t receive dedicated funding for things like transportation to help women get to a shelter, or personal or hygiene needs, or underwear or pajamas for those who show up at our door unexpectedly, that this is no longer acceptable. I will ask you to notice those wearing purple scarves in the community, showing their support for the Wrapped in Courage campaign whose premise is the fact that the courage of a woman, alone, is not enough. I will ask you to take comfort in the displays of purple flags flying in our Indigenous communities, municipalities and service agencies, knowing that our local leadership is acknowledging this problem and we can work collectively to make this change.  

However you choose to support this work, on behalf of the women and children whose names I hope never appear on future femicide lists, thank you.

Marnie Hall, executive director

Manitoulin Family Resources

Ballad story touches heart; We will remember them

To the Expositor:

With regard to your article of November 9, 2022 on John Eadie’s WWII sacrifice during Op Husky (‘The Ballad of Johnny Eadie,’ Page 1), the invasion of Sicily, 2023 marks the 80th anniversary of the Sicilian campaign. I recently attended a briefing on the planned ceremonies celebrating the Canadian contribution to Op Husky. There are extensive events planned in July of 2023 in Sicily. All the Canadian graves in Sicily will be honoured as a march is planned tracing the footsteps of the Canadian advance. For further information visit: 

www.remembrancewalk.ca

As a born and bred Haweater it is with avid interest that I read The Manitoulin Expositor every week. The paper’s dedication to Remembrance Day is especially heartfelt after serving 38 plus years in the Canadian Army. 

“We will remember them.”

J.C. Young, CWO (Ret’d)

McDonalds Corners

Harkening back to CCF days; They cared about people

To the Expositor:

I think it’s time to bring back the old Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party. They cared about the people. The government today doesn’t seem to care that people are going hungry and cold, not be able to afford food and heating oil. And they’re giving away billions of our tax dollars.

Charlie Pratt

Honora