Picking up national newspapers over the weekend, Vernon Okanagan College regional dean Jane Lister couldn’t help but notice huge front-page stories on domestic violence.
She shared that story as one of 14 people taking part in the annual National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women candlelight vigil,organized by the Vernon Students Association Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 6.
It was 33 years ago on Dec. 6 that 14 women were murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique by a lone male gunman. The day also commemorates Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
While the Montreal massacre is more than three decades old, Lister reiterated words issued by the Province of British Columbia earlier in the day, saying “misogyny, violence and femicide against women and girls remains a reality in communities throughout our province and country.”
“We have so much more work to do,” said Lister. “We have more road to go down.”
Vernon Student Association general manager Eric Reist was a student at the University of Alberta on Dec. 6, 1989. He told the gathering he always thought about the anniversary of the massacre, but said it’s not just enough to think about it on just one day a year.
“We need to do more. It’s just not enough to remember these women on one day,” said Reist, one of five men who participated in Tuesday’s vigil, something he was happy to see.
“It’s important to have male voices to help find solutions to gender-based violence and to work with women.”
Vernon Coun. Kelly Fehr, a man, and Archway Society for Domestic Peace representative Kelli Sullivan, a woman, led the vigil out of the Kal View Café, up over the college footbridge, and to a specifically selected flower bed.
Fehr shared a story from his experience of attending a sporting event at a friend’s house in Vernon shortly after he attended his first National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women candlelight vigil.
There were inappropriate comments being made about women, and he felt the time was right to stand up and say something. It cost him friendships with people at that event, some who fought him vehemently, he said, on his opinions.
“Men are the perpetrators of a vast majority of violence against women,” said Fehr. “It’s us who can help stop it…It’s absolutely vital that we as men take a stand; that we don’t sit idly by. It’s our call to do that for our mothers, sisters, daughters.”
On Dec. 6, said Reist, the City of Montreal shone 14 light beams up to the sky in a powerful tribute to the murdered women of 1989.
At the Vernon vigil, each participant was given a lit candle to symbolize those lights, along with a rose. The flowers commemorate the Montreal victims, and additional roses were handed out to recognize the Indigenous communities in B.C. The roses were placed atop the snowy flower bed.
Singer Jacquelyn Rose performed The Rascals’ 1960s anthem People Got To Be Free along with the Women’s Warrior Song, written by a member of the Okanagan Indian Band.