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I write in praise of all those committed to the Sisters in Spirit Vigil held on Oct. 4th at the Cochrane Street Centre in St. John’s.
It was an honour for a good friend and I to attend for the first time. This very meaningful and powerful event was organized by wonderful staff from the First Light, St. John’s Friendship Centre and the St. John’s Status of Women Council. The program also acknowledged community members, the Indigenous Student Resource Centre at Memorial University, the Family Information Liaison Unit, Correctional Service of Canada, Violence Prevention Avalon East, the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre.
Reconciliation, forgiveness and healing are extremely demanding emotionally, physically and mentally. All are essential for our deep healing as individuals, as communities and between different regions and groups across our magnificent country, from sea to sea to shining sea. The impeccable event organizers made sure everyone felt welcomed and safe by cleaning each microphone between speakers, practising social distancing and offering the option to connect online.
The presentations from affected family members were deeply emotional, important and moving.
Minister Lisa Dempsey, who represented our elected provincial government, spoke with incredible sincerity and warmth through her tears. I felt grateful for her completely authentic and gracious response to the witnessing of such immense suffering. Clearly she is a leader whose life is dedicated to serve all of us to the very best of her abilities.
Eastern Owl played and sang wonderfully, as always. Tanya Michelin from Correctional Service of Canada and Laura Winters from the St. John’s Status of Women’s Council and Women’s Centre spoke with tremendous dignity, knowledge, resolve and wisdom. Collectively they addressed what is a national tragedy of epic proportions. As a new Canadian, I felt incredibly proud to see so many fellow citizens working so hard to help those whose lives have been ripped apart through violence. I also felt tremendous sadness.
The presentations from affected family members were deeply emotional, important and moving. I am sorry I do not have the requisite skills to report on these adequately. I do wish to thank all the family members who spoke and attended for sharing their anguish and deep, deep pain with us.
As a physician, I wish to join with all my fellow citizens, who work to create a brighter future for each and every one of us. Domestic violence prevention is a major focus of medical research, especially since the massive Center for Disease Control (CDC)-Kaiser Permanente, Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) research study demonstrates that abuse and cruelty experienced in early childhood can become major risk factor for illness throughout the life-span of the affected child.
The CDC and other websites provide free access to detailed research studies on the topic of violence prevention and health. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/about.html.
Archeological research shows that some of our recent and distant ancestors were violent and, in all cases, this there is also evidence that violence was encouraged, taught and valued by either the subculture of those or by the mainstream social culture of these individuals. Violence in thought, speech and action is a learned behaviour.
We humans are born with a capacity to be kind and compassionate. Hence there have been human cultures, civilizations and societies that experienced peace for as many as a thousand years.
Dr. Riane Eisler is the founder of the Center for Partnership Studies based in Carmel, Calif. She is an eminent systems researcher. She and many others argue that our foundational social relationships start within family structures, extend to gender relationships, then to economics and language and narrative.
According to Eisler, all our relationships tend to have a focus towards partnership or towards domination. Partnership structures focus on creating and maintaining positive relationships and have a focus on healthy relationships with healthy conflict resolution, peace-making and peacebuilding skills encouraged and taught from early childhood.
Translational research is needed to help us to include knowledge of healthy relationships, conflict resolution, peace building, peace keeping, healing trauma and restorative justice into our arts and entertainment, educational, health, legal and penal systems. The healing of individuals, families, communities and nations is possible when we attentively, carefully and collectively make this our goal.