It was a cold, blustery, snowy day i Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores), as it usually is on December 6th. Despite the weather however, more than 100 people came out to remember 14 young women who were massacred at Ecole Polytechnique du Montreal.
The ‘Vigil’ is hosted each year in remembrance by the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). The name and a brief history of each young woman in the Engineering program who was killed by 25-year-old Marc Lepine, was read aloud so that each name became a living memory.
CFUW Southport President, Heather Conlin, said that the ‘Vigil’ is an opportunity for people to reflect on the issue of violence against women and children in society.
According to Victim Services of Bruce-Grey, the numbers of violence against women and children are not improving. In 2017, Victim Services helped 1,609 victims across Bruce, Grey and Perth Counties. Of those, 807 were female, 292 were children and 439 were male. Of the total, 265 were domestic violence, five were human trafficking and 40 were sexual assaults. Human Trafficking is, according to Victim Services, becoming more prevalent and is “happening in our own backyards”. According to Saugeen Shores Police, just under half of all calls were domestic violence related. The role of Victim Services is to help victims and connect them with the various services that are in the community, or ‘crisis response and report’.
This year’s ‘Vigil’ was also a special remembrance of local Saugeen First Nation’s Maisy Odjick, who went missing at the age of 17 ten years ago. Her grandfather, former Saugeen First Nations Chief and Elder, Vernon Roote, spoke of Maisy and how he wished no other family would have to go through what his did.
“Maisy was a very passionate person and my last visit with her was about a month a half before she disappeared. She was here in Saugeen and was looking forward to high school in September but she never came back. Today, we celebrate her spirit and we have to recognize that spirit is so important to everyone. If it weren’t for spirit, I don’t know that I would have every made it through. We have to recognize that spirit is with us and that our ancestors and our people are with us as Maisy is with us and we often feel her presence.”
In addition, students from Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) Drama program performed an emotional dramatic vignette of how social media plays an important role in the lives of young people.
At the end of the ‘Vigil’, members of the Chantry Singers sang the moving, ‘Let there be Peace on Earth’.