Community Comment, by Jewelles Smith
Revelstoke-based activist Jewelles Smith encourages you to take time to reflect on the history of activism to end gender-based violence; join the public candlelight vigil
(Part 2 of 2)
Last week I met with Nelli Richardson, Executive Director of the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society to discuss the 2011 vigil that is held to commemorate the Rose Campaign. In the past, the shelter has held public vigils at Grizzly Plaza and although having the memorial in such a public venue brought attention to the history and importance of Dec. 6, it can get very cold in Revelstoke in December therefore last year the shelter held a private vigil. For 2011, the Women’s Shelter has decided to hold the vigil at our new high school. As this paper is distributed on Wednesday, I do hope that many of you got out to the vigil to add your voice to the chorus that will say “No!” to violence against women. The candle-light vigil is at 3:30 p.m.
This year marks 22 years since the massacre at École Polytechnique de Montréal. On Dec. 6, 1989, a lone male gunman entered the technical school with a concealed gun. He shot 27 women engineering students, killing 14. This massacre is one of the worst cases of gender-based violence in the history of Canada, but is still not an isolated case. On the anniversary of the massacre, organizations such as the YWCA, universities and women’s shelters remember the names of these and other women who have been murdered because they were not seen as equal members of society, often placing empty shoes to indicate the absent murdered women. As Richardson said, “It is a day to stand in support of a woman’s right to be a fully participating Canadian citizen; her right to equality and equity; her right to life, liberty and security.”
The 16-Day Campaign ends on Dec. 10 with the International Human Rights Day. It is fitting that a campaign for an end to violence and recognize the full and equal human rights all people would close with Human Rights Day. The ultimate goal is for the other days to become redundant because in recognizing that all humans have the same basic rights, we would no longer have to identify excluded groups of people. These basic human rights were laid out in The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that was created 63 years ago. You can read the Declaration at http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/. This year we have witnessed a global effort to assert these basic human rights. In Egypt, Libya, London, and New York and so many countries and cities in between, citizens are demanding their governments acknowledge the basic human rights of housing, food, education, and safety as their primary duty and that these current governments are failing to ensure that access. In many of these countries, the effort begins with the right to elect leaders, something we take for granted here, but the effort will not and cannot end until every human being’s basic rights are ensured.
As Nelli Richardson also shared with me during our discussion: “[Dec. 6] is a time to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also a day for communities and individuals to think about the concrete actions that each of us can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women.” Take time to reflect on the many defenders of human rights, the lives lost battling gender-based violence, and the hope that so many hold for a day when all humans will have the same right to life and equality regardless of their gender, ability, sexual orientation, country of origin, or religion.
On Dec. 6, the names of the 14 murdered women at the massacre at École Polytechnique de Montréal are remembered and read aloud. So in closing, I would like to remember: Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31; Maryse Leclair, 23; Annie St.-Arneault, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Maryse Laganière, 25; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 28; and Annie Turcotte, aged 21.
Jewelles Smith, MA is a Revelstoke-based freelance human rights researcher, writer and activist with DAWN-RAFH Canada (DisAbled Women’s Network).
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Note: The vigil was on Nov. 6, not Nov. 7.