Survivors, supporters, local RCMP detachment and members of the community joined together in a Walk to End Violence on Friday June 9. The walk started and ended at Chief Kwah Memorial hall with a mid point stop at Spirit Square. At all three points; the start, the middle and the end people shared a few words, speaking up against violence experienced by women, especially indigenous and marginalised women of minority groups.
“The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is coming up [to Prince George] and people should be getting their communities ready. Women who have experienced violence can still apply to be a witness at the Inquiry. It is reported that they are going to need an extension. Communities need to get their services ready to support survivors,” said Marion Erickson of the Northern Women’s Centre.
“Community leaders need to get their indigenous healers, mental health services, and transportation ready. They will need to fundraise for transportation to get to the inquiry because that is not going to be covered by the inquiry. Go to the inquiry website [www.mmiwg-ffada.ca] and speak to some of the family and see if they need some emotional and spiritual support. One of the tough things which is going on right now is that a lot of people on reserve don’t have internet. They need to stay informed as much as they can. It’s going to be a hard time for our communities people should be ready and people shouldn’t be speaking against it [the Inquiry],” said Marion Erickson.
Marion openly shares that she is a survivor of domestic violence. For the past few years Marion has been working towards her undergraduate degree in Public Administration and Community Development. Recently, she was elected by the student body of to Senate where she sits on various senate committees. Marion was also recently awarded the Student Mentorship opportunity by the Prince George City Council and attended the 2017 Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Ottawa last week. She will graduate from her Bachelors degree in 2019.
When asked about this walk and how it came about, the organiser, Youth Justice coordinator, Maddison Sam explained, “Originally it began with a young women’s group. I wanted to educate them about healthy living, healthy lifestyle, drug awareness, living with an addict and then it came about, talking about violence against women and how it gets pushed to the side a lot.”
“One quote that really spoke to me”, says Maddison, “The honour of our people lies in the moccasin tracks of the women and its true our community wouldn’t be where it is if it wasn’t for the women. And all our women are slowly being marginalised. You see it with drug addictions, sexual violence, domestic violence, collateral violence [experienced by children in families where there is abuse], and our women are becoming silent. I just want everyone know that they are not alone. It happens too often and I believe it is getting worse and pushed under the table. Our women are scared to speak out, they are intimidated. And this is something Nak’azdli should be talking about. We are a strong community, we have so many assets in our community. But violence in our community is not something that’s really discussed. “Violence against women is not something that is not discussed. It is not reported. There are not a lot of reported incidences. That is the issue. You hear it in women talking about it, they open up to you, lots of them come to me share situations that they are in.”
Maddison Sam grew up in Fort St. James. She just recently graduated with a Diploma in Criminology from the College of New Caledonia. She is the Youth Justice Coordinator for the Nak’azdli Alternate Justice Centre. She is running programs over the summer and engaging with youth in a way that promotes healthy lifestyles while focusing on awareness and prevention activities.
Maddison explains how she started the ‘Ts’ekezoo’ Young Women’s Group in the beginning of May. “The intent behind this group is to promote healthy, independent lifestyles within the young women. From this idea, I had thoughts about having a ‘Violence Against Women Awareness’ walk. After discussing some ideas with my coworkers and community members, it was evident that an initiative to spread awareness was needed in our community.
“Violence against women is more common than people may think. The Canadian Women’s Foundation website states that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Not to mention, Aboriginal women are being killed at six times the rate of Non-Aboriginal Women. These facts are very concerning.
“This march was a great opportunity for not only the Nak’azdli Whut’en, but the whole community to demonstrate that we do not condone or tolerate this type of behaviour. Also, this was a way to show possible victims of violence that they are not alone. Violence affects everyone and comes in many forms. Whether it be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or verbal abuse, it is not okay. Too often, women are afraid to speak out because of intimidation or fear of backlash. By the community gathering together, we are breaking this silence,” says Maddison.