Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS – Elijah Smith Elementary School dancers perform Friday at the memorial marking Saturday’s 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A POIGNANT MOMENT – Fourteen white roses were handed out Friday in memory of the 14 women murdered at École Polytechnique, during the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Here, Hillary Aitken (left) hands one to Jennifer England.

Locals mark Montreal atrocity’s 25th anniversary

Residents gathered Friday at a noon ceremony inside the Elijah Smith Building marking the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre vowed to continue to do their part to help end to violence against women.

By Stephanie Waddell on December 8, 2014

Residents gathered Friday at a noon ceremony inside the Elijah Smith Building marking the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre vowed to continue to do their part to help end to violence against women.

“It’s time to take action,” said Hillary Aitken of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre.

Aitken emceed the ceremony with Maryne Dumaine of Les EssentiElles.

The annual vigil remembers the 14 women killed by Marc Lepine at École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989.

It also marks the conclusion of the 12 Days to End Violence campaign staged by local women’s organizations each year, and remembers the nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in the country.

Presenting the sobering statistics, Aitken and Dumaine told the packed crowd that one in four women will experience sexualized violence at some point in their lives.

Aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience violence.

Denise Beauchamp, president of Les EssentiElles, also addressed the crowd during the event.

For years, violence against women has been portrayed as a women’s issue, but it impacts everyone, the emcees said.

Running alongside the 12 Days to End Violence campaign is the local White Ribbon initiative. It’s an opportunity for men to stand together and openly state their commitment to ending violence against women.

As Steve Roddick, who leads the local campaign, explained, progress can’t occur if half the population won’t work on it, and men have a unique role to play in ending violence against women.

This year, those involved with the White Ribbon initiative put their efforts into making a quilt.

Made of 25 squares – one for each year that has passed since the Montreal Massacre – the quilt features 38 mother profiles sewn on.

They represent the 38 aboriginal women from the territory who are included in the 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women from across the country.

Pinned to it are 72 white ribbons from men who proudly wore the white ribbon as a symbol of their opposition to violence against women.

Those at the ceremony also heard from Josie O’Brien, of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, who reflected on the impact colonization and the legacy residential schools have had on her culture, once a matriarchal society.

It now seems mainstream society no longer values aboriginal women, she said, adding that people need to stand up and let others know it’s not OK to disrespect aboriginal women.

She urged those gathered to continue calling on the federal government for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

“No one should fear that they might be next,” O’Brien said.

Throughout the ceremony were aboriginal performances to honour those impacted by violence against women.

The Dakhka Khwaan Dancers presented their Song For Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women.

The Women of Wisdom members from the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre presented the Strong Woman Song as 38 red roses were passed out in honour of the women in the Yukon who have gone missing or been murdered.

Finally, youngsters from Elijah Smith Elementary School were a “reminder of hope we hold for the future,” as Aitken introduced them to perform the Connection Song.

Also performing at the vigil were the Persephone Singers, with December’s Keep and Frobisher’s Bay.

Before the 38 red roses were handed out, those at the ceremony remembered the 14 female engineering students who died in Montreal a quarter of a century ago.

White roses – one for each woman killed by Lepine – were handed out to representatives from various groups in the city with the names of each woman read by Brian Crist, president of the Association of Professional Engineers of the Yukon.

Before he read each name, Crist reflected on his own experience hearing the news the night of Dec. 6, 1989. As both an engineer and a man, he said, he was devastated.

It’s important to remember that day, Crist said as he also noted he applauds the various campaigns in the community aimed at stamping out violence against women.

He then recalled the women who were taken in Montreal 25 years ago.

They were Genevieve Bergeron, 21; Helene Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31; Maryse Leclair, 23; Annie St.-Arneault, 23; Michele Richard, 21; Maryse Laganiere, 25; Anne-Marie Lemay, 22; Sonia Pelletier, 28; and Annie Turcotte, 21.

A moment of silence followed the distribution of the white and red roses, with a closing prayer ending the ceremony.

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