On the afternoon of Wednesday, December 6, a small group gathered at the fountain in downtown Golden to honour the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada.
The day was established by Parliament in 1991 to mark the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal who were killed specifically because they were women.
Surrounding the fountain were 14 pairs of shoes, each with a red rose laid across and a candle beside them to represent the 14 women killed in the 1989 Montreal massacre. Each pair represented the different walks of life and symbolize the women no longer there.
For over 20 years the Women’s Centre in Golden has honoured the day by setting up a memorial. While the day marks the anniversary of the massacre, the day represents an opportunity to address the issue of violence against all women in our society.
This year, for the first time, the Women’s Centre collaborated with the Metis Society and added a red dress in the centre of the memorial as a symbol of missing indigenous women. During the gathering, Dana Setter, the Aboriginal Support Worker at Golden Secondary School and a member of the Secwepemc tribe, performed a smudging ceremony. She took an abalone shell containing sage grass, lit it on fire and walked around the dress with the smoke smudging it. Afterwards she gave each person there the opportunity to smudge themselves by taking the smoke in their hands and bringing it towards their head, ears, eyes and mouth.
Smudging is a custom of indigenous cultures. It is performed to remove negative energy as well as for healing.
“It’s a sort of blessing,” said Metis member Davene Dunn.
Dunn said it was done in memory of the 4,000 indigenous women that have been murdered and nothing done about it.
In addition to the dress and shoes, flags were made by the Stopping the Violence councellors at the Family Centre. Each flag represented one of the women that were killed in the Montreal massacre.
“Everyone has the ability to make change and everyone has the responsibility to create change and address the issue of violence against women,” said Golden Women’s Resource centre executive director and outreach co-ordinator Linley McLean.
The day also is a day on which communities can consider actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
For more information on the Women’s Centre and how you can help with the cause, call them at 250-344-5317.