Although many activities have stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women continues with a vengeance.
In order to remember victims and keep ongoing violence in the public eye, the 31st anniversary of the massacre of 14 female engineering students at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989, will be marked by an online Candlelight Vigil at Okanagan College campuses in Salmon and Vernon.
The vigil, United Against Violence Against Women, also brings attention to the missing and murdered women in the North Okanagan-Shuswap, across B.C. and Canada, as well as all the women targeted by domestic violence daily.
Since 2016, four women have gone missing from the region: Caitlin Potts, Ashley Simpson, Deanna Wertz and Nicole Bell. The remains of missing woman Traci Genereaux were found in the region although no charges have been laid.
“This is a time to reflect on how many families are impacted by violence and recognize that it takes a great deal of courage and strength for someone to leave an abusive relationship. Those who are missing or murdered in our communities are not forgotten,” said Jane Shirley, executive director of the SAFE Society.
Indigenous women are more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women.
Kathy McIntyre-Paul, a Stopping the Violence counsellor with the SAFE Society, noted the society has been partnering with Okanagan College Students’ Union and Aboriginal Services for more than a decade to offer the vigil.
“COVID-19 has not made violence against women go away. If anything, women have been even more vulnerable during this time. The Dec. 6 event is an important way to remember and honour women who have lost their lives due to violence or continue to struggle with it,” McIntyre-Paul said.
Micki Materi, co-executive director of programs, Archway Society for Domestic Peace, said it’s important to remember and then to create a world where this does not continue to happen.
‘We can start with a national action plan to ensure follow-up to the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s final report’s calls to justice,” Materi said.
The online vigil will be comprised of a video that can be viewed at www.okanagan.bc.ca/vigil between 8 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6. Given the nature of the event, the webpage includes a special resources section, providing links to community services, interventions and crisis support.
Anyone who visits the page, watches the video or marks Dec. 6 is asked to light a candle of remembrance in honour of the victims and survivors of violence toward women, and share a photo on social media.