Over 20 people braved the wet and cold today in Nelson to help mark the Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It’s held on the anniversary of the anti-feminist massacre in 1989 that took the lives of 14 women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique.
To honor the day and bring awareness to the issue in the community, the Nelson Violence Against Women in Relationships Committee (VAWIR) hosted a vigil in front of City Hall.
Nina Hamilton, a member of VAWIR and a victim services worker with the Nelson Police Department and RCMP, hosted the event. This year’s campaign theme was “listen, learn, and act.” Hamilton explains that the theme addresses the key steps to tackling gender-based violence.
“’Listen’ refers to supporting survivors who share their experience and to the experts that work on the front lines. ‘Learn’ encourages us to educate ourselves on what gender-based violence is, how to spot it, and how we can prevent it and take action. ‘Act’ is for taking the information and applying it to our daily lives.”
Attendees then participated in a rose ceremony. Fourteen roses were laid below the city’s cenotaph in honor of the lives lost in the Montreal massacre, with more laid by community members who have been impacted or experienced gender-based violence.
Hamilton hopes that the event reminded the community of the importance of the issue and how much work still needs to be done to prevent violence against women.
“I hope that community members recognize that gender-based violence happens everywhere; there’s no stereotype. It happens to people from all walks of life. We want to bring awareness to the issue as a community and honor every woman who has lost her life as a result of gender-based violence.”
Following the rose ceremony, city councillor Leslie Payne addressed the crowd.
Payne’s emotional tribute began with her stating that violence against women is not just a women’s issue but a societal one that demands collective action and transformative change.
“Let’s reject all forms of violence, discrimination, harassment, and foster a culture of equality and empathy. Together we can build a future where every woman and girl and everyone who identifies as female can live free from fear of violence.”
She went on to share how deeply the events 34 years ago affected her. Payne, a mother of four girls, said the lack of progress since the Montreal massacre is disappointing.
“I remember that year of this event. The following year the eldest of my four daughters was born. It’s a very emotional moment to think through what has happened in their lives and the lack of progress,” she said.
“How do we move this forward? With all of us here representing the change that we envision throughout the world and standing in solidarity, I have to believe in my heart that change is possible and that we can bring it about.”