The P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women hosted its annual memorial service Wednesday to mark Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
The event was held at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Candles were lit by participants in remembrance of the 14 women murdered in the Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989, and for each of the 10 P.E.I. women murdered since that date.
A bouquet of roses, one for each of the victims, sat in a centre display alongside candles at the memorial service.
“All of their dreams were ended by violence. Their voices are not here any longer. But we will speak their names and light a candle for them,” said Mari Basiletti, chairwoman of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
Silent witness silhouettes representing the Island women who were murdered by men who knew them were on display at the event. Each figure bears a name and story of the woman.
Treena Smith, director of student affairs at UPEI, was guest speaker and spoke of her vivid memories of Dec. 6, 1989, when she was a university student at UPEI and heard the news.
“I remember trying to process why these women were shot just for being women. I remember seeing women on campus crying and being very vocal about violence against women and the need for more education, support and resources. And here we are in 2017 asking for the same things,” said Smith.
Smith said that there have been a number of societal changes since that day 28 years ago, but one lack of change stands out.
“There’s been one constant. And that constant is violence against women.”
The province’s annual purple ribbon campaign is meant to create public awareness about male violence against women. The theme of the campaign this year is, “Don’t stand by. Stand with. Everyone has a part to play in ending violence against women.”
“ ‘Standing with,’ means that we discourage the misogyny that manifests itself through sexist jokes and derogatory language demeaning to women. It may mean safely intervening if we witness or suspect acts of violence,” said Basiletti.
In her remarks, Basiletti particularly noted Canada’s national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
“We are very conscientious of the ongoing national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. We stand with you to work for outcomes that meet the needs and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
Part of the event’s themes focused on the positive steps that need to continue among the male population. Smith talked about the positive impact of UPEI’s “Bringing in the Bystander” intervention program. It’s a workshop that uses a community responsibility approach to teach participants to be pro-social bystanders and to safely intervene when an incident may be occurring or where there may be risk.
“The main objectives of this program are to help students develop critical thinking skills and the ability to talk about sexuality violence education in a way that is productive and non-threatening,” said Smith.