This year in Amherst the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women will come full circle and return to where the first local vigil took place.
Before Parliament declared it a national day, community members here in the border community held a small vigil Dec. 6, 1990, on the first anniversary of the 1989 l’École Polytechnique massacre where 28 people where shot, killing 14 women.
The shooter had specifically targeted women.
“The first one was outside the town hall, so we are returning to the location,” the Autumn House’s Ruth Currie said. “There were a handful of people and we were outside the town hall, and there was a light snow. I was a volunteer then, and there were a few people from the community. It was really quite moving.”
Today, the old town hall at the corner of Acadia and Ratchford Streets is now the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre and instead of being held outside, the vigil will be brought indoors. The Day of Remembrance offers a moment of reflection.
“On that day we’ll be holding our ceremony of remembrance for the 14 women killed,” event committee member Heidi Simpson said.
“As well as remember the women who continue to live with violence in their lives globally, nationally and in our own community,” Currie said.
Running in tandem to the Day of Remembrance is the federal initiative 16 Days of Activism, a call to address gender-based violence. Beginning Nov. 25, and running to Dec. 10, the Autumn House is participating by using its social media presence and the #MyActionsMatter hashtag attached to the campaign.
“Throughout the days of activism, the Autumn House’s Facebook page will have a fact with the hashtag to bring awareness,” Simpson said.
Gender-based violence and family violence continues to be a problem, but as technology advances so do they ways groups and organizations like the Autumn House can deliver information, resources, support and hope to victims. The Autumn House maintains a 24-hour crisis line, 902-667-1200, as well as utilizing email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who is a victim or has experienced violence and wants support can use the connections and can use them anonymously.
Anyone can visit their website, autumnhouse.ca, to learn about programs and services available, too, Currie said.
“If people are wondering about what it is they can do, they can visit the website and get more information, or they can always contact us. Even if they are just looking to support someone they think are being abused,” Currie said.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence. Sixty-seven per cent of Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse